During phase 4 of the distributed energy project implementation process, agencies develop an acquisition plan, issue solicitation documents, and award a contract. The process used will depend on the selected procurement option. Below is general information that applies to most, if not all, procurement options. More specific information is available regarding utility energy service contracts, energy savings performance contracts (ESPC), ESPC ENABLE, and ESPC energy sales agreements.
Step 1: Develop an Acquisition Plan
The Acquisition Plan includes strategies for planning, execution, and management of the project. The plan outlines the specific actions necessary to execute the approved acquisition strategy. The team works with the contracting officer to develop the Acquisition Plan, including the project milestones.
The Acquisition Plan should describe small business requirements. Work with your agency's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (or equivalent) to determine what steps (e.g., market research) and approvals are required. Other requirements, such as "buy American," may also apply and should be identified early in the process.
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Step 2: Complete Required Solicitation Documents
The required solicitation documents will vary depending upon the procurement method selected. Most projects required a Source Selection Plan (SSP). An SSP ensures a thorough, fair, equitable, and unbiased proposal evaluation process. The SSP includes evaluation team members and responsibilities, lays out the evaluation process, and presents evaluation criteria.
If your project will be funded through appropriations, funding must be available by this stage. In some cases, a request for proposal (RFP) will be required. In very limited cases a sole source contract may be approved. The RFP typically follows the federal government's uniform contract format, which is as follows:
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Part I - Schedule
- Solicitation/contract form
- Supplies or services and prices
- Packaging and marking
- Inspection and acceptance
- Deliveries or performance
- Contract administration data
- Special contract requirements
Part II - Contract Clauses
- Contract clauses
Part III - List of Documents, Exhibits, and Other Attachments
- List of documents, exhibits, and other attachments
Part IV - Representations and Instructions
- Representations, certifications, and other statements of bidders
- Instructions, conditions, and notices to bidders
- Evaluation factors for award
The RFP should include the following information:
- Results of the technical feasibility analysis
- Site conditions
- Agency management reviews
- Agency goals
- Authorities that will be used
- Clearly-defined project requirements
- Submittal requirements including pricing structure, evaluation criteria, operations and maintenance, and repair and replacement specifications.
- Other RFP considerations include cybersecurity, site resilience, and end-of-contract options.
Scopes of work without adequate instruction are prone to change orders and renegotiation that cost both the federal government and the supplier time and money. The scope of work must also include all details, such as coordination meetings and correspondence. If it is not in the scope of work, the offerors may not include the associated costs in their bids.
Best practices for RFP development include:
- Start with templates or examples from the Federal Energy Management Program or other agencies
- Involve legal and contracting teams early on for high-level decisions
- Engage the contracting officer as much as possible
- Engage agency experts as needed
- Solicit input from team members on evaluation criteria
- Use working meetings for real-time document editing
- Implement a document sharing and version control plan.
Step 3: Award a Contract
The federal government next awards a contract to the successful offeror. This contract establishes the cost and scope of the project.
Solicitation documents such as RFPs establish the type of contract that will be used. Two basic construction contract types exist: Design-Bid-Build and Design-Build. In a Design-Bid-Build contracting arrangement, the system is designed by an engineering firm before construction companies bid on the installation. In a Design-Build contract, the same firm designs and installs the system.
Before awarding a contract, the team reviews and scores proposals according to the selection criteria. Selection criteria often include capabilities and past performance. A track record and references of at least three successfully installed and operating projects are an excellent demonstration of past performance.
During the proposal evaluation and contract award selection, the project team should:
- Follow the source selection plan
- Request additional information or conduct negotiations if needed,
- Make the final selection
- Obtain agency approvals (including Congressional notification if required).
Phase 3 of the distributed energy project implementation process focuses on feasibility studies and project validation. See Phase 3: Project Validation.