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National Grid Exceeds EPAct Requirements Deploying Natural Gas Technology

Photo of a natural gas vehicle at a fueling station

One of National Grid's natural gas vehicles fuels up at the pump.

Nov. 7, 2013 – National Grid is a leader in the U.S. energy sector and is making its presence felt by deploying natural gas and other alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) in its fleet. The company delivers electricity to approximately 3.3 million customers in Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island and is the largest distributor of natural gas in the northeastern United States. The utility has invested heavily in AFVs and infrastructure to meet and exceed the requirements of the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) State and Alternative Fuel Provider Fleet Program. Through these investments, National Grid has established itself as a leader in the alternative fuels arena and a role model for other regulated fleets.

Complying with EPAct

Certain alternative fuel provider fleets, such as National Grid, must comply with EPAct requirements by acquiring AFVs if they own, operate, or lease 50 or more non-excluded light-duty vehicles and if at least 20 of those vehicles are used primarily within a single Metropolitan Statistical Area and are capable of being centrally fueled.

National Grid's predecessor companies began using natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in their fleets in the 1970s, motivated by energy security, emissions reductions, cost savings, and other considerations. Under the direction of Bill Hilbrunner, fleet director, the company has maintained compliance with EPAct since the regulations went into effect.

From 2009 through 2011, National Grid complied with its EPAct requirements using the Alternative Compliance option, which allows covered fleets to obtain a waiver from the AFV-acquisition requirements of Standard Compliance. In lieu of acquiring vehicles under Standard Compliance, these fleets implement measures to increase alternative fuel use by deploying alternative fuels in light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles, and lower their petroleum consumption by reducing idling and vehicle miles traveled. According to Mr. Michael Randazzo, lead fleet engineer and alternative fuels lead at National Grid, "Pursuing Alternative Compliance allowed National Grid to maintain a leadership role in environmental stewardship among our peers and promote alternative fuel solutions while meeting the fleet's EPAct requirements and operational needs."

Regulatory requirements, environmental stewardship, and participation in the natural gas industry as a service provider have all contributed to our interest in NGVs and other alternative fuels.
Mr. Randazzo, National Grid

To meet EPAct requirements under Alternative Compliance, National Grid deployed over 425 NGVs as well as other alternative fuel and advanced vehicles, including hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), and flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). The utility also used biodiesel blends of 5% biodiesel and 95% diesel (B5) and 20% biodiesel and 80% diesel (B20) at its private fueling stations and has upgraded many of its private gasoline fueling stations to be ethanol (E85)-capable so it can consider adding ethanol fueling options for its FFVs in the future.

In 2012, National Grid began the process of replacing approximately 1,500 vehicles by 2014. Many of these new vehicles are AFVs. Because the EPAct Standard Compliance method focuses on AFV acquisitions, National Grid pursued this option to meet its EPAct requirements for model year 2012. In addition, the utility has continued its use of biodiesel blends, for which it always receives credit toward its EPAct requirements, whether operating under Standard Compliance or Alternative Compliance.

Overcoming Challenges

While expanding its alternative fuels program, National Grid encountered several key challenges, including limited fueling infrastructure availability, incremental vehicle costs, a lack of driver acceptance. National Grid overcame these challenges by building its own fueling stations and seeking government funding to assist with the incremental costs of vehicles. To address resistance from vehicle operators, National Grid focused on employee training and education.

In addition, National Grid has faced limited availability of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) NGV solutions in the marketplace. In the early 2000s, National Grid purchased over 1,000 NGVs, largely OEM vans for their New York City operations. When the vans were due for replacement, there were fewer OEM options available. During this time, National Grid continued to support the industry by procuring aftermarket NGV conversions. National Grid sees the recent return of OEM NGVs to the marketplace as a positive development for the industry.

Moving Beyond Compliance

National Grid's commitment to alternative fuels reaches beyond its regulatory compliance. The utility is striving to enable its customers to adopt beneficial transportation alternatives by developing fueling stations for public use. Because National Grid sees fueling infrastructure availability as a major barrier to mainstream AFV deployment, it has focused more on building public fueling sites throughout its service area. As of September 2013, National Grid owns 15 public-access compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations—3 in Massachusetts, 10 in New York, and 2 in Rhode Island. Additionally, by leveraging grant programs and partnering with customers, National Grid owns over 100 public-access Level 2 PEV charging stations across its service territories with plans for dozens more by 2014. The stations are located on customer sites where PEV charging makes the most sense. The utility has observed an increase in customer interest in AFVs in response to its leadership by example on vehicle deployment, recent market developments, and infrastructure development efforts.

National Grid - Regular, premium, or natural? We think drivers deserve a choice.

National Grid also has a strong relationship with Clean Communities of Central New York (CCCNY) and other Clean Cities coalitions in its service area. These coalitions provide National Grid with technical and regulatory knowledge and experience, which helps when deploying AFVs and supporting infrastructure. "Clean Cities has been instrumental in the successful development of many of National Grid's alternative transportation projects," said John Gilbrook, National Grid's transportation project manager. "Coalitions act as catalysts when we attempt to get alternative fuel projects off the ground." In addition, National Grid is giving back to the community by working with coalitions to give presentations touting the availability and benefits of NGVs and fueling infrastructure to the company's major commercial gas customers.

Looking to the Future

Through many years of leadership, collaboration, learning, and commitment, National Grid's alternative fuels program has resulted in benefits that include emissions reductions, cost savings, and strategic partnerships. As National Grid continues to add AFVs to its fleet, the utility plans to pursue Standard Compliance to meet its EPAct requirements for model year 2014. The utility has incorporated the cost of carbon as a factor in its transportation procurement process and is focused on obtaining AFVs whenever feasible. In addition, with increased NGV availability in the marketplace, National Grid will be able to focus on replacing more vehicles with AFVs going forward. National Grid also continues to look into potential customer offerings that could lead to more natural gas fueling station construction in the future.

More Information

For more information about National Grid's alternative fuel and advanced vehicle deployment efforts, contact John Gilbrook., Transportation Project Manager, at john.gilbrook@nationalgrid.com or 781-907-2253. For more about natural gas, visit the Alternative Fuels Data Center and NGVAmerica websites. For more information about the Standard Compliance and Alternative Compliance options to comply with EPAct requirements, learn about the compliance methods.

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Content Last Updated: 11/22/2013