Funding Supports K-12 Public Schools for Energy Upgrades that Lower Costs and Create Healthy Learning Environments

WASHINGTON D.C. – As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, today the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) opened applications for the 2024 Renew America's Schools Prize, which will award $180 million to districts across the country engaging in strategic partnerships to build capacity and implement energy upgrades at K-12 schools, lowering energy use and costs, improving indoor air quality, and fostering healthier learning environments. The 2024 Renew America’s Schools Prize, funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, represents a groundbreaking investment in energy-efficient and renewable energy infrastructure at underserved K-12 public schools and contributes toward the Administration’s broader Action Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure

“There’s nothing more critical than investing in the health and education of our nation’s children,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. "This program's first round of funding saw an unprecedented influx of applications, requesting billions in school infrastructure upgrades. The Biden-Harris Administration has doubled down on its commitment to students across the country, allocating more resources both from this program and across the Department of Energy."   

The 2024 Renew America’s Schools Prize will invest an anticipated $180 million in school facilities that demonstrate the need for both energy improvements and financing, with a focus on schools that serve disadvantaged communities, including those with a high percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, and/or which qualify as rural. Eligible improvements – like new HVAC and ventilation systems, building envelope and lighting projects, alternative fuel (such as electric) vehicles and infrastructure, and renewable energy technologies – will improve energy performance and/or lead to improvements in student, educator, and staff health. By reducing energy use, these investments can reduce building operating costs – the second highest operational expense for schools. The savings can be reinvested in programs like afterschool, summer learning, and other educational opportunities and resources for students. At the same time, learning environments that have been enhanced with better indoor air quality, lighting, and other upgrades supported by DOE’s investments, can boost student health outcomes and improve overall well-being and academic performance.  

Competitive proposals will implement energy assessments and building improvement projects across a portfolio of 10 or more school facilities.  A portfolio may be composed of school facilities from one or more districts.  Competitors submitting proposals should be organizations or teams with the capacity to aggregate and manage projects across a portfolio. During Phase 1, competitors will build teams and curate lists of school facilities that demonstrate both need and eligibility for investment.  

Each Phase 1 winner will earn a cash prize of $300,000 and move on to Phases 2 and 3, during which they will enter and execute a Cooperative Agreement with DOE. Awards made in Phases 2 and 3 will vary by portfolio size but could range from $7.5 million to $15 million. DOE will issue the largest awards to portfolios serving 20 or more school facilities, offering a total of $15,300,000 to winners in this category for completing all three phases.  

The Renew America’s Schools Program aims to help school districts across the country make energy upgrades that lower utilities costs, improve indoor air quality, and foster healthier learning environments. In 2023, this program announced selections for its first round of funding – the Renew America’s Schools grant – which invested $178 million in over 90 school facilities across 22 states, and directly benefitted about 74,000 students and 5,000 teachers. 

The 2024 Renew America’s Schools Prize iterates on the Renew America’s Schools grant. The new prize-to-cooperative-agreement funding mechanism streamlines the application process, lowering barriers to entry for districts and increasing the accessibility of federal funds. It additionally promotes partnerships between school districts and industry experts, encouraging the formation of stakeholder support networks that can provide districts earlier, more targeted assistance, help them build internal expertise, and provide pathways to additional financing. DOE will prioritize applications that demonstrate replicable partnership models, enhance the impact of federal funds, allow federal dollars to make their way into more school communities, and stimulate further investments in the K-12 energy sector.  

The prize supports President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda and the Justice40 Initiative to put environmental and economic justice at the center of America’s energy transition. Applications supported by the prize will deliver lasting benefits to local communities through DOE’s Community Benefits Plan framework: supporting meaningful community and labor engagement; investing in quality jobs; advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA); and advancing the Justice40 Initiative, which sets the goal that at least 40% of the overall benefits flow to underserved communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.  

DOE is now accepting applications for the 2024 Renew America’s Schools Prize. Submissions are due on Thursday, June 13 at 5PM ET

To access the 2024 Renew America’s Schools Prize, visit https://www.herox.com/renewschoolsprize. To view the tools and resources that will support your application, visit /scep/renew-americas-schools.

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