Alaskans are known for their ingenuity in extreme conditions. Over the years, Alaskan cities and remote villages have come up with creative ways to bring electricity to communities despite extreme weather, permafrost, wildlife, climate change, and new economic pressures. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) established the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) back in December 2021 to help scale the emerging technologies needed to tackle some of our nation’s most pressing climate challenges and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
OCED received more than $25 billion dollars in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act to deliver these much-needed clean energy demonstration projects at scale and in partnership with the private sector to accelerate deployment, market adoption, and the equitable transition to a decarbonized system. OCED’s historic level of funding will help boost proven, but emerging technologies, to help de-risk ongoing private sector investments and accelerate the rate of construction for utilities, companies, and projects that will directly support energy resilience for Americans.
For Alaskans, this is a unique opportunity to apply for targeted funding for proven sustainable technologies and help strengthen community preparedness for energy challenges. DOE supports several research programs across the state, and OCED helps supplement those programs with funding opportunities specifically designed for deploying clean energy in rural or remote communities, such as those in Alaska. The Energy Improvements in Rural and Remote Areas (ERA) program received $1 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to fund projects that will improve the resilience, safety, reliability, and availability of energy in rural or remote areas. To date, this program has issued two funding opportunity announcements for a total of $350 million and plans to issue more opportunities in the future with the remaining $650 million.
Recently, OCED and other DOE representatives attended the Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference to hear more about Alaskan’s energy needs and to share information about OCED’s ERA program. OCED’s Director of Independent Assessments, Laurel McFadden, spoke on a panel about the latest ERA $50 million funding opportunity announcement and how OCED is responding to rural community needs – including reduced application paperwork, no cost share requirements, and active participation in the Justice40 initiative for historically under-resourced communities. McFadden spent 10 years living across Alaska, conducting fisheries research in Cordova and supporting National Science Foundation research across the state as a logistics consultant. She lived off-grid near Girdwood during graduate school, and later in Fairbanks in a dry cabin like many of her neighbors.
After living and working in wilderness areas, McFadden has a deep appreciation for the skills and work that it takes to support Alaskan communities, and especially to ensure consistent power, communications, and access for vulnerable populations. Inspired by the OCED mission, she decided to pursue a career with DOE to help ensure her family and friends have the resources to continue their ingenuity in these environments.
“The number one thing Alaskans can do is continue to be resourceful,” said OCED Director of Independent Assessments Laurel McFadden. “We know going after funding is extra work when each season is already busy – it’s so important for us to learn what you need, and for us to hear how DOE can support each unique community. Partnerships are an especially good way to find new resources and help small businesses and utilities work together to find new solutions.”
OCED’s rural and remote programs are offering additional no-cost technical assistance for the application process. DOE looks forward to seeing applications from all across the great state of Alaska!