DOE Opens Comment Period on Its Draft Guidance for Rebate Programs for Efficient Transformers That Save Money and Improve the Power Grid 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today invited public comments on draft guidance to implement two provisions of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that provide $20 million of rebates to support electric system upgrades for utilities and save commercial building operators money on their utility bills. The rebates will help utilities, commercial equipment, and building operators make distribution transformers and electric motor systems more efficient.  

Replacing aging electric motor systems helps companies make  pumps, fans, and compressors more efficient, providing significant energy and cost savings opportunities. Likewise upgrading distribution transformers, which represent some of the most vulnerable components of local electricity infrastructure, increases resilience and energy efficiency. Optimizing American energy infrastructure by implementing energy efficiency technology across the country is a key component of reaching President Biden’s goals of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035, and President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides more than $20 million to modernize transformers and electric motor systems. 

“More efficient transformers and electric motor systems will reduce energy use, save companies money, and carry more clean energy to American homes and businesses,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “We’re harnessing input across America to strengthen our approach to recharging our nation’s infrastructure with the best-available technologies at our disposal while slashing energy bills and combatting the climate crisis.” 

Industrial and commercial electric motors represent about 29 percent of the total electric grid load. Electric motor systems provide the ability to control the speed of electric motors that drive a variety of commercial and industrial equipment including fans, pumps and compressors to save commercial building owners and operators money on their annual utility bills. Electric motor systems are often operated beyond their intended lifetimes, and older models are inefficient and more vulnerable to extreme weather and external factors.  

Distribution transformers serve as the final leg of the electric power distribution grid, reducing voltage to a level that is suitable for consumers in commercial, residential, and industrial applications. While distribution transformers are efficient devices, they operate 24 hours a day, remain in operation for decades, and virtually all electricity passes through distribution transformers, meaning even small improvements in distribution transformer efficiency save significant amounts of energy. Newer transformers are more resilient and energy efficient, reliably moving electricity from where it’s made to where it’s needed with fewer losses. Rebates incentivize and offset the costs of upgrading these critical grid components. 

The Notice of Availability (NOA) and Solicitation of Public Comment on the Draft Implementation Guidance DOE released today address sections 1005 and 1006 of the Energy Act of 2020, which the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law authorizes. These Draft Guidance documents describe how DOE is currently planning to structure and implement these two rebate programs. DOE is soliciting feedback on proposed definitions, the eligibility criteria and window, incentive payment calculations, and other issues. 

Public responses to this NOA will help DOE design programs to achieve the goals and priorities established under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. DOE especially encourages feedback from owners of industrial or manufacturing facilities, commercial or multifamily residential buildings, utilities, energy service companies, although all public responses will be heard and considered.   

The deadline to submit your response to this NOA is 30 days from publication in the Federal Register at 5 p.m. ET. Download the Draft Implementation Guidance to see the full draft, issues for which DOE is seeking comment, and instructions on how to submit your response.