Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV), including Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEV) and Waste to Energy technologies are part of an emerging economic cluster in the Sacramento region. With a focused investment strategy, the region stands to increase demand for ZEVs, stimulate business and job growth, and support air quality and greenhouse gas reduction goals. Equally so, the region is well situated to increase demand for alternative fuels, broaden long-term commitments for Waste to Energy projects and business growth, and shift potential consumer groups to using renewable natural gas (RNG) vehicles.

Through a project called “Regional Industry Cluster of Opportunity”—or RICO—business leaders and local economic, workforce, and community partners are working together to identify and grow the industries around ZEVs and renewable natural gas produced through organic sources of waste in the region.


What is the goal?

The goal is to identify and implement workforce and economic development strategies around ZEVs and Waste to Energy technologies. This is part of a California state strategy (AB118) to develop and deploy innovative technologies that transform the state’s fuel and vehicle types to help attain California’s climate goals.


Why is this important?

This work is important because air quality in the Sacramento region ranks among the nation’s ten most polluted for ground level ozone. The passage of carbon reduction policies, such as AB32, requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide by 2020. AB118 tasked regions across the state with developing industry cluster strategies to develop and deploy innovative technologies that transform the state’s fuel and vehicle types to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, Governor Brown set a goal of 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025, which translates to 75,000 ZEVs in the Sacramento Capital Region. Supportive actions that align industry with infrastructure, local policy, education, workforce development and economic development are required to ensure that the Capital Region keeps pace with these policy goals. Additionally, Clean technologies are needed for their significant environmental impacts – reduced carbon emissions, improved air quality, and reducing waste streams that wind up in landfills – all that can contribute to greatly improving the region’s environmental health.

At the same time, Clean Transportation technologies are gaining speed and attracting investment. New education pathways and job creation will result with new career opportunities. We also stand to increase income mobility for unemployed and underemployed residents. Plus, while considered a nascent cluster in the Sacramento region, the Clean Transportation cluster is one with big growth potential.


What is Valley Vision doing about it?

The RICO initiative, a partnership among private companies and public and nonprofit agencies, is funded by the California Energy Commission through an inter-agency agreement with the California Workforce Investment Board. The program funds five regional industry partnerships throughout the state to foster clean technologies, including the Sacramento region. In our role of providing backbone support to RICO projects, Valley Vision is advancing a common agenda across multiple stakeholders, reinforcing mutual activities within the cluster, and facilitating the development of a regional strategy.

Valley Vision is also bolstering coordinated action in the Sacramento region to enable cluster growth and ensure that infrastructure and policy systems adjust to the emerging technologies of ZEV and Waste to Energy. Our RICO work is helping position the region as a Clean Economy innovation region, while enabling learning from other regional partnerships and fostering collaboration with state agencies.

Valley Vision and the RICO team have analyzed existing data and engaged employers and stakeholders in a collaborative priority setting process to establish an Investment Strategy. This strategy identified needs and opportunities within the cluster. From this, the team developed implementation strategies to develop the cluster.

The ZEV investment strategy has four main components:

  • Increase demand for ZEVs to stimulate business and job growth
  • Build consumer awareness through education and increase visibility of ZEVs
  • Facilitate ZEV purchase and an infrastructure installation process to eliminate unnecessary roadblocks
  • Create training and certificate programs for occupations associated with the ZEV economy

The Waste to Energy Investment Strategy has these similar components:

  • Grow demand and long term commitments for Waste to Energy projects and business growth
  • Advocate for supportive local and state-level policies
  • Increase visibility and support for projects through educational materials/events/forum
  • Encourage regional fleet operators and other potential consumer groups to shift to using renewable natural gas (RNG) vehicles
  • Establish the workforce needed to support the cluster


What is our desired impact?

That the Sacramento Capital Region be a leader of coordinated action, technology adoption, infrastructure investment and placement, workforce and training strategies, and champion of new policies that allow for ZEV and RNG industry growth.


How does this effort affect triple-bottom-line objectives?

Economy: By facilitating workforce training, consumer awareness, infrastructure readiness and alignment across the economic cluster related to alternative renewable fuel and zero emission vehicles, the Capital Region can significantly grow the Clean Economy.

Environment: California is an international leader in carbon reduction policy. The RICO effort equips the Capital Region to adjust to the changing technological requirements and growth of the de-carbonized transportation system.

Equity: RICO activities lend to ensuring equity in the deployment of these clean and innovation technologies by including strategies that make sure low-income populations can access ZEV technologies through financial incentives as well as placement of infrastructure in multi-unit dwellings. Additionally, by creating career awareness and educational pathways, RICO activities expand access to new career opportunities, especially through Career Technical Education and community college programs.



RICO was initiated in October 2013.  2015 focused on sustainable implementation of priorities that were developed in 2014. RICO was focused on educational pathways and career awareness in 2016. These activities were geared towards developing a workforce talent pipeline from high school students to professionals in jobs that provide needed services and knowledge for the innovations in the cluster.



The RICO team’s focus on driving demand by outreaching, educating and increasing visibility has been a pathway into cluster growth for this nascent cluster. By driving demand while also supporting infrastructure changes, job training and curriculum, the team has observed a spike in cluster activity and awareness. From 2013 to 2016, ZEV and PHEV ownership has more than tripled with more than 3,000 Clean Vehicle Rebates allocated. Anaerobic digestion facilities grew from zero in 2012 to over 125 tons of capacity per day throughout three facilities region wide and RNG now fuels over 100 vehicles daily.

The RICO project provides coordinated action to support technology adoption, build and maintain needed infrastructure and advocate for policies that allow ZEV and RNG cluster growth.



Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA), American River College, Atlas ReFuel, CleanWorld, SARTA, Sacramento Area Electrical Training Center, Sacramento Clean Cities Coalition, TakeCharge (managed by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments), Valley Vision

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