Portland Tribune | by Melody Finnemore | February 13, 2020
Meals on Wheels People will soon incorporate a refrigerated electric cargo van, an electric vehicle and a charging station at its main Central Kitchen, a move that is expected to save the nonprofit money and reduce its impact on the environment.
Suzanne Washington, chief executive officer, said the organization’s Driving Sustainable Transportation project would be the beginning of a sea change for Meals on Wheels People in how it transports meals and staff.
“We hope this project is only the beginning of our growth in this industry, as the implications for cost savings by reducing our dependence on carbon-based, unstable, rising fuel prices as well as the reduction of emissions in our neighborhoods are vital,” she said. “Transportation activities are a huge responsibility that we don’t take lightly — the impact of home-delivering 167,224 individual meals to our most vulnerable children and families and an additional 1 million meals a year to seniors via gas vehicles is massive.”
Meals on Wheels People is among several community organizations that received support from the new Portland General Electric Drive Change Fund, which is funded by the sale of Oregon Clean Fuels Program credits. Meals on Wheels People received $337,731 for its EV project.
“We anticipate the electric van and electric car will be driven 16,800 miles per year. An electric delivery van and an EV passenger car will greatly assist Meals on Wheels People because these two new vehicles are capable of doing these urban routes efficiently, and at a cost savings by converting the thousands of miles to electricity-fueled miles,” Washington said.
PGE introduced its Drive Change Fund last June with an announcement that it planned to award $1.75 million in grants to increase access to electric transportation. PGE encouraged local nonprofits and businesses to apply for grants for projects ranging from electric transit buses and passenger cars to community service vehicles and bikes. PGE’s goal is to return the value of Oregon Clean Fuels Program credits to local communities while expanding mobility options and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“Transportation is the largest source of carbon emissions in the state, making an electrified transportation system critical to a low-carbon future,” John McFarland, PGE vice president and chief customer officer, said in a news release when PGE introduced the fund. “PGE is committed to supporting an electric transportation system that serves everyone, and the PGE Drive Change Fund will help us do that.”
Project grants range from $5,000 to $575,000 and cover up to 100% of eligible project costs. Applicants do not need to be PGE customers, but all projects must benefit the public in PGE’s service area. Projects most likely to receive funding include those that expand access to electric vehicles, develop new charging infrastructure, and support education and outreach efforts to address barriers to electric vehicle adoption, particularly for underserved communities.
The Oregon Clean Fuels Program, administered by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, aims to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions from transportation by 10% from 2015 to 2025.
In 2018, PGE received credits from the DEQ for the previous two years, which PGE sold for about $5.5 million. Last March, PGE filed its plan to invest those funds in various programs that benefit local communities, including the Drive Change Fund. Other initiatives include a pilot program to help school districts buy electric buses, increased access to Electric Avenue charging stations for low-income customers, and public outreach to raise awareness about the benefits of electric vehicles.
The largest 2019 Drive Change Fund grant, $343,000, went to Ride Connection for five new EVs with charging infrastructure that will save overhead and allow a mobile specialist to manage the new fleet. The new fleet will expand ride services for low-income individuals, elderly people and adults with disabilities.
Native American Youth and Family Center received $272,359 for five new EVs and the required charging infrastructure to serve students throughout NAYA’s programming and expand to new areas for Native youth facing barriers due to cultural gaps in mainstream institutions. Portland Community College received a $196,951 grant for five used EVs that will allow its Automotive Service Technology program to teach hands-on service, maintenance and repair.
Novel Interventions in Children’s Healthcare received funding for five EVs and five electric bikes; SnowCap Charitable Communities got a grant to electrify a cargo van and install charging infrastructure to expand its ability to provide food assistance; and the Oregon Food Bank received funding for an EV pilot program utilizing two electric SUVs to distribute meals and increase nutritional education in the areas it serves.
Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center’s grant paid for two EVs to transport clients, eliminating a barrier for the lower-income community of migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Washington and Yamhill counties. ROSE Community Development is using its grant to pay for three used EVs for car sharing that rotates through ROSE’s multiple affordable housing projects.
Other 2019 grant recipients included Northwest Family Services, Senior Advocates for Generational Equity, Northwest Pilot Project, Our House of Portland, Sexual Assault Resource Center, Portland African American Leadership Forum and Kailash Ecovillage.