This report presents the results of a process and outcome evaluation of the California Energy Commission's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP), relying on quantitative and qualitative methods. For the outcomes so far, we conclude that the ARFVTP has made considerable progress reducing many barriers to the market viability of alternative fuels and vehicles.
- Has the process for developing the ARFVTP investment plan been reasonable? Has the program targeted the major barriers? How successful has the ARFVTP been in soliciting proposals, evaluating proposals, awarding contracts in a timely manner, and administering the awards? To what extent have awardees achieved the main technical objectives of their projects?
- What has the impact of the awards been on the products and technologies offered by the awardee? To what extent have funded projects reduced barriers to the market viability of alternative fuels and vehicles? What has been the impact of the program on employment and workforce capabilities?
This report presents the results of a process and outcome evaluation of the California Energy Commission's (CEC's) Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP), relying on quantitative and qualitative methods. We find that the process for developing the ARFVTP's investment plan has been reasonable; CEC has targeted the major barriers to market viability across the main fuel-sector types funded by the ARFVTP (hydrogen, electricity, diesel substitutes, gasoline substitutes, and natural gas and biomethane); the ARFVTP has been successful in soliciting proposals; the criteria and weights that the CEC used to evaluate award applications are appropriate, but there are some concerns about the amount of time required to review applications and execute agreements; there are both strengths and weaknesses in how CEC oversees grants once they begin; completing projects on time has been a challenge for many awardees; and awardees are largely achieving their projects' most-central technical objectives. The ARFVTP has made considerable progress reducing many barriers to the market viability of alternative fuels and vehicles. The ARFVTP appears to have allowed awardees to proceed with projects they would not have undertaken otherwise. The program also supported some employment in California and did result in some hiring for the projects. Stakeholder suggestions (from successful, unsuccessful, and potential applicants) on ARFVTP investment priorities going forward vary by fuel type but generally call for continued program support.
Findings from the Process Evaluation
- The process for developing the plan has been reasonable.
- CEC has targeted major barriers to market viability across the five main fuel types funded by the program.
- There appears to be a general awareness about the program.
- Most project solicitations (also known as project opportunity notices) have attracted more requests for funds than the total funds available and appear to have attracted a healthy diversity of applicants.
- Survey respondents believe the criteria and weights used by CEC to evaluate award applications are appropriate, but there were some concerns.
- There were both strengths and weaknesses in how CEC oversees grants once the grants begin.
- Awardees by and large secure the proposed matching funds.
- Completing projects on time has been a challenge for many awardees.
- Awardees are by and large achieving the technical objectives most central to their projects.
Findings from the Outcome Evaluation
- Study findings suggest that roughly one-half of the projects funded by the ARFVTP would not have proceeded otherwise.
- After completing their ARFVTP projects, awardees overwhelmingly indicated they had taken steps to continue to develop, market, install, or produce the product or technology funded by the award.
- The ARFVTP has made considerable progress reducing many barriers to the market viability of alternative fuels and vehicles.
- CEC's ARFVTP project grants supported some employment both in California and elsewhere and did result in some hiring for the projects.
- Tepid private-investor interest in the ARFVT industry suggests an ongoing need for government involvement, and a substantial majority of ARFVTP awardees, unsuccessful applicants, and potential applicants surveyed believe that continued government involvement is necessary for the market viability of alternative fuels and vehicles.
- For hydrogen, there is no evidence now to suggest that CEC should prioritize the reduction of vehicle-related and fuel-production barriers over the continued expansion of retail fueling stations.
- For electricity, it may make sense to focus more funding on workplace charging stations and less funding on Level 2 stations in those public places with less vehicle dwell time.
- For diesel substitutes, if production and employment are top goals, CEC should consider providing production incentives rather than continuing to invest in biodiesel production capacity, which is currently underutilized.
- CEC should carefully assess the relative merits of supporting an E85 fueling infrastructure and ethanol production from lower carbon-intensity feedstocks.
- Increased adoption of biomethane will require continued funding to help drive down production costs and tackling barriers to injecting biomethane into California's natural gas pipelines.
- The CEC should continue to work with California's Employment Training Panel to determine whether industry desires additional funding for this program.
- The program should not shy away from RD&D projects simply because their outcomes can be difficult to quantify. Alternative and renewable fuels technologies are at different stages of technical readiness and some requires additional R&D.