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The Education Materials for Professional Organizations Working on Efficiency and Renewable Energy Developments (EMPOWERED) funding program will develop training programs for professionals who are increasingly engaging with distributed energy resources (DER), such as solar energy systems, energy storage systems, efficient building technologies, and alternative-fuel vehicles. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the program on April 6, 2020, and on Decebmer 22, 2020, it announced five project selections. The program is a collaborative effort among DOE’s solar energy, building, and vehicle technologies offices.

Approach

As new energy technologies become part of the nation’s energy system, it is important that  emergency responders, building owners and managers, safety officials, and other professionals understand how they work. These projects provide that education and help ensure that solar, storage, efficiency, and alternative-fuel vehicle technologies meet all codes and regulations while preparing firefighters and other first responders to handle them safely.

The projects fall under two topic areas:

  • Emergency Response and Resilience Planning
    These projects will train and educate firefighters, first responders, and other emergency-response professionals to manage and adapt to the rapid growth of clean energy technologies.
     
  • Safe DER Building Integration: Building, Fire, and Safety Department Officials
    These projects will train and educate safety officials, building managers, and building owners to manage and adapt to the rapid growth of clean energy technologies.

Objectives

The projects in this funding program will fill knowledge gaps in training, credentialing, and education for the professionals mentioned above. Providing these workers with up-to-date resources will help improve safety, reduce liability and insurance costs, and increase consumer confidence in these technologies.

Selectees

– Award and cost share amounts are subject to change pending negotiations –

Topic 1: Emergency Response and Resilience Planning

NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION (NFPA)
Project Name:
Creating the NFPA Distributed Energy Resources Safety Training Program
Location: Quincy, MA
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Awardee Cost Share: N/A
Project Summary: With Argonne National Laboratory and other partners, the NFPA will test the latest DER equipment in controlled structure fires and related incidents, develop modularized courses on DER safety for easier consumption, and create a multiplayer serious gaming platform with several energy-related incidents at each scene.

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS
Project Name:
A Safe Response to Renewable Energy Hazards
Location: Washington, DC
DOE Award Amount: $1.4 million
Awardee Cost Share: $181,000
Project Summary: To obtain information to develop training programs, this project team will test installed residential energy storage systems at Underwriters Laboratory to understand what happens when DER fail and pose risks to emergency responders.

Topic 2: Safe DER Building Integration: Building, Fire, and Safety Department Officials

INTERSTATE RENEWABLE ENERGY COUNCIL (IREC)
Project Name:
Dynamic and Responsive DER Educational Solutions for Building, Fire, and Safety Department Officials
Location: Albany, NY
DOE Award Amount: $2.1 million
Awardee Cost Share: $126,000
Project Summary: IREC will establish a comprehensive online platform of information related to DER safety and develop a job-focused, interactive online training program. Educational materials and resources will focus on clean energy codes, standards, permitting, and inspection for building managers, owners, and officials interacting with solar energy and storage systems.

SOUTHFACE ENERGY INSTITUTE
Project Name: Creating the Distributed Energy Resources Education Center
Location: Atlanta, GA
DOE Award Amount: $750,000
Awardee Cost Share: N/A
Project Summary: In partnership with the American Institute of Architects, Energy & Environmental Building Alliance, International Code Council, and others, this project team will create educational programming and resources related to DER inspection, implementation, and operation for building designers, building officials, builders, skilled tradespeople, and building owners and operators.

NEW BUILDINGS INSTITUTE
Project Name: Bringing DER to Scale through Simplified Permitting and Education
Location: Portland, OR
DOE Award Amount: $500,000
Awardee Cost Share: $78,000
Project Summary: This project team will work with local governments, the U.S. Energy Storage Association, and others to develop guides and education modules to streamline the design, permitting, inspections, and maintenance of solar, storage, and electric-vehicle charging stations for single- and multifamily homes and offices. The project has the potential to streamline DER permitting and reduce associated regulatory burdens.

None of the project funds will be used to influence local codes.

Learn more about the Solar Energy Technologies Office’s soft costs funding programs.