Feedback from Diverse Stakeholders Will Inform Strategies to Improve Access to Federal Funding

Today the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity published a summary of feedback from diverse stakeholders about how EERE can be more inclusive in funding innovators and entrepreneurs developing clean energy technologies.

The feedback is the result of a recent request for information (RFI) about how to broaden access to funding opportunities to increase the diversity of EERE’s innovation ecosystem. Responses came from environmental justice and community-based organizations; incubators and accelerators; technology developers, investors, and funders; state, local, and tribal governments; researchers; and others.

“The results from this RFI have informed EERE about how we can improve our funding and reach a more diverse set of entrepreneurs and small businesses,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “At EERE, we want to provide immediate support in communities where it’s needed the most and build a foundation for community-led innovation in climate and energy technologies.”

Two major themes emerged from the responses: One is that EERE should fund intermediary organizations to work with underrepresented communities to carry out clean energy integration and education activities, and one is to make the application process easier for federal funding. EERE received 80 responses from 106 organizations, some of which collaborated on their responses.

The report identifies key barriers across the Department of Energy (DOE) within the current funding structure and recommends processes and improvements to lower these barriers, like reducing or eliminating cost share requirements, providing more grants with smaller dollar values, and including more open topics in funding opportunities. The report also summarizes recommendations to improve access, equity, and justice in DOE’s funding of the broader climate and clean energy ecosystem, like setting aside funds for underrepresented groups and facilitating mentorship.

With this information,  as well as other stakeholder engagement efforts, EERE launched the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize in September 2021. Through this competition, DOE will fund organizations that conduct climate and clean energy activities that support, build trust, and strengthen relationships and partnerships with disadvantaged communities. The prize closes for submissions on February 25, 2022.

Additionally, DOE’s $54 million fiscal year 2022 funding opportunity for small businesses includes an EERE joint topic on community-driven solutions for a just and equitable energy transition. Small businesses that are awarded funding under this topic will be required to partner with communities and community organizations to co-develop clean energy technology solutions, in line with the Justice40 initiative.

Read the full report.