>>Erica: Okay, everyone. My name's Erica Burrin, and I'm the Weatherization Assistance Program manager, and I want to thank everybody for joining us today. Katy Kujawski and Sasha Tidwell are going to go over the Sustainable Energy Resources for Consumers and the Community Scale Pilot Project proposal memorandums. One thing I want to say at the beginning is we can't go into specific approvals about projects you may propose, because that would be seen as providing an unfair advantage to certain potential applicants.
But we're happy to answer general questions. These will be posted. We'll also have additional FAQs as questions come in that will be posted with the slides and the recording probably later this week. So, with that, I think Sasha is going to lead us off and I will let him take it away.
>>Sasha: Can you go to the next slide now?
>>Katy: Okay. Here you are.
>>Sasha: Okay. Great. So, on December 15, 2021, the Weatherization Assistance Program released two competitive funding opportunities titled Sustainable Energy Resources for Consumer—or SERC—and the Community Scale Pilot Project—or Community Scale for short.
So, the legal authority for SERC comes from Title IV of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Specifically, the act states, "If the WAP appropriated funds exceed $275 million, the Department of Energy secretary may elect to use up to 2 percent of the amount of funds made available for SERC grants."
And the legal authority for Community Scale comes from Public Law 116-260 under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. Specifically, it included a set-aside of $1.5 million to conduct a pilot on community scale projects within the program.
So, further overview. So, SERC has $12.2 million from DOE available, and SERC funds are from FY21, but will be administered under FY22. Community Scale has a set-aside of $1.5 million administered through program year 2022, and also, as it says here, each grant will have an emphasis on following the Justice40 work and guidelines. This will be addressed further later in the presentation. Also, application plans will be reviewed and scored based on the following mechanism that it says here.
So, if the category is not satisfactorily addressed, then it gets a one—a two for if the category's addressed, but lacks sufficient details, and a three if the category is well described and provides efficient detail.
So, there are a few elements of note from the statutory language that I want to go over. So, one—funding is available to sub-grantees and local weatherization agencies through the grantee award. Two—funding is provided for materials, benefits, and renewable and domestic energy technologies not covered by the program. So, this includes renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Three—the state WAP grantee must do two things—one, certify that the applicant has the capacity to carry out the proposed activities and two—include the SERC projects in its financial oversight under WAP.
And so, the secretary's priority for SERC is listed as follows. So, A—the expected effectiveness and benefits of the proposed project to low and moderate income energy consumers; B—the potential for replication of successful results; C—the impact on the health and safety and energy cost of consumers served; and D—the extent of partnerships with other public and private entities that contribute to the resources and implementation of the program, including financial partnerships.
And here's a list of examples—SERC projects that are NEPA pre-approved. So, grantees will have to submit separate NEPA reviews if they want to suggest SERC activities that fall outside this list right here. Grantees will be required to attend NEPA training that will outline the details of how to do this. We also cannot provide project ideas or guidance, as Erica mentioned earlier. Grantees must consider these application memos and submit project applications on their own terms.
It should also be noted that funding does not include training dollars as training needs should be considered under the regular WAP formula allocations.
And now, let's dive into the important details of the other grant that we're discussing today, which is the Community Scale Pilot Project or Community Scale for short. So, Community Scale refers to complex projects involving multiple tenants and/or building owners and/or funding sources grouped together with one or more of the following characteristics—specific geographic area, specific housing type, and/or specific demographics. As defined, Community Scale projects can range from a cluster of single-family houses, two or more small multi-family buildings, or a large multi-family building. So, to be clear, the general idea of Community Scale is to apply regular WAP formula activities to larger scale projects with multiple tenants.
So, a quick overview of the Justice40 Initiative that these grants must follow. So, project plans must include an explanation on the quality and manner in which measures incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion goals in the project, and the extent to which the projects benefits underserved communities. So, DOE defines "underserved communities" as "populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities that have been systematically denied of full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life, as exemplified by the list in the definition of 'equity'". So, there will be specific metrics included in the SERC and Community Scale reporting documents related to the impact on disadvantaged communities, and you'll continue to receive more information on the details of Justice40 as the initiative continues to develop, but we just wanted to highlight the major details here in this presentation.
And right here, this is the general definition of Justice40. So, "A new government-wide initiative to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of federal investments to disadvantaged communities".
>>Katy: Let's talk about the submission process for the SERC and Community Scale funding opportunities. Grantees will submit their responses through PeerNet, which is an online platform for collecting and reviewing grant applications. PeerNet is a website that is supported by one of our DOE's contracted partners. Use of this platform is intended to streamline the process for Grantees' submissions and the process for reviewers as well. Pay attention because there is a unique link for both the SERC and Community Scale application submission portals. So if you are applying to both of these grant opportunities, you will need to go to both links in order to access those applications. We have some instructions for using PeerNet and accessing it. Those are posted along with memos on our DOE website. Preliminary responses will be directly inputted into fields in PeerNet while the secondary responses will be PDF uploads into the system. Pay attention again to any specifics that are in the memos related to either application process. Any questions you have on the application or in the memo, please submit those to the WAPTA@WAP email that is at the end of this presentation.
Let's take a look at the funding opportunities separately and what is required in this preliminary review response. So, both SERC and Community Scale include a list of required criteria statements. We'll take a look first at the Community Scale Pilot Project criteria, which has a total of five statements that grantees will respond to. These statements you can see on your screen. They're asking grantees to include information in their initial responses on previous experience in managing complex projects; how diversity, equity, and inclusion—DEI—will be incorporated into the project; the capacity that the grantee and subgrantee has to expand weatherization partnerships with state and local counterparts; who might administer HHS, HUD, USDA, or other types of funds.
You'll also need to respond to the experience you might have in developing, implementing, and coordinating a Community Scale project, and provide verification that entities involved in the project have the capacity, technical expertise, and the resources available to implement the project as planned. So, this means the grantees will be certifying that they will be monitoring, that there will be quality controls in place. And we will take a look at those exact requirements after we go through these preliminary review criteria statements for the SERC grant. So, the SERC application is asking grantees to provide information in this initial set of responses to subgrantees previous experience in managing complex projects, information, how diversity, equity, and inclusion will be included in the project, and also, that verification that the entities have the capacity and resources to be able to implement the project as proposed.
The verification section—grantees will need to provide contact information, grantee certification of oversight and quality assurance, a list of the subgrantees. And for the Community Scale, grantees will also need to provide certification that the project will be included in the regular financial oversight of the WAP program. I also want to note that after an acceptable submission of these preliminary—this preliminary information is reviewed and received, reviewers will then start on the secondary review.
So, let's take a look at the requirements for information to be included in the application package that will be under the secondary review. We will start with the Community Scale Pilot Project. The secondary review will be completed on the project plan, and the plan will be reviewed and evaluated based on how the following six elements from the announcement memo are incorporated into that project plan. So, submissions will need to address how the project will demonstrate a focus on equitable accessibility and/or distribution of program allocations to disadvantaged communities. Sasha provided a definition earlier as to what disadvantaged communities are.
There's also more information in the memo as well. Grantees will also need to address, in their responses, how the project will show that it has resources and expertise for braiding funds and providing training and technical assistance, and you will also need to include how the project can be replicated and be used by the larger Weatherization Assistance Program.
There are some additional requirements required for your response. Grantees will need to include information on how the project outcomes will be collected and measured; information on the anticipated positive impact from the community served, and finally, the submission will need to include letters of commitment from the partners that you plan to include in that project.
The secondary review of SERC will evaluate how well projects meet those four SERC priorities that are found in 411(b)(2) of the Energy Independence and Security Act. So, grantees will need to address, in their application submissions, how the expected effectiveness and benefits of the proposed project will impact people with low and moderate income, the potential of replication—as we talked about—the impact on health and safety, and the extent and nature of the partners involved. Also, for the SERC application, grantees will need to detail how the project is expanding the program, and materials, benefits, and renewable domestic energy technologies that are not already covered by the Weatherization Assistance Program. There are some suggested lists of ideas. One list Sasha already went over.
There is some information in the memo about what is currently covered under WAP and where to find that in Rules and Regulations. I should also mention that SERC funding is not to be used for Appendix A materials, benefits, or renewable and domestic energy technologies that are not already covered by WAP. So, for example, if a local provider is planning to use the SERC grant funds to install solar panels on homes they are weatherizing, the solar panels would be paid for with SERC, but the base weatherization should be paid for with those existing WAP funds. That means that SERC funds may be used by the local weatherization provider to implement this expansion on homes that they are currently weatherizing or will weatherize. And, it should be noted, that the SERC funds are not subject to the regular ECPU.
And I'm going to move on to the next slide. I want to mention that there are some additional criteria that grantees will need to respond to in their submitted project plan. Just pay attention to these and make sure that they're incorporated in some way into those submitted project plans. All project plans should follow a required structure that we're going to take a look at.
So, at the end of each memo, there's a chart that includes the required structure of the actual submission. Pay attention to the page count. The total application for SERC or Community Scale cannot exceed 25 pages, and within that, there's limits on each section. So, for both SERC and Community Scale, you are allowed one page for the cover page.
The memo outlines those elements that should be included that cover page such as name, contacts, confidentiality statement—some pretty basic information there.
There will be four pages allotted for the project overview and goals. In this section, grantees will provide information on the overall project, the entities involved, the various goals of the project, the anticipated impact.
There are six pages allowed for the technical description. This section will include information on the project feasibility and capability based on previous works, impacts on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and identifying a return on investment.
The Project Management Workplan can be spread across up to eight pages. Grantees should include their approach here, various milestones, goals, quality assurance plans, just to name a few things that should be included in that Project Management Workplan.
Finally, the technical qualifications and resources is allotted at six-page limit. This is where the project team is described, the roles of the various people involved, organizations involved, letters of commitment, existing and future resources to name a few things. So, these charts could be helpful as you're preparing your application. Certainly, the memos are. Hopefully, we detailed some of the finer points from the memos here.
We have covered the memos in full, and before we end today, we have a couple brief questions and answers that we've received. If you all have any questions for us, please, put them into the chat and we will get to them in just a moment.
The first question that we've received is—do the projects/measures for SERC or Community Scale need to adhere to the current SIR stipulations, weatherization rules, energy modeling, et cetera?
So, while all regular weatherization rules apply, there's an exception with meeting the SIR. The SERC does not need to meet the SIR. It's specifically for technologies that may not meet that SIR. Community Scale Pilot Project, however, does not have this exemption.
Our next question is—can the submitted project proposals be for a single measure project on previously weatherized homes such as in installing a ductless heat pump or heat pump water heater?
The answer is, as noted in the memo, Community Scale funding is intended to support those complex projects that combine multiple funding sources for a holistic approach so, single measure projects would not appear to meet this definition, however, it would depend upon the rest of the project and other funds and activities involved.
Just a reminder, applications are due on March 1, 2022, no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern. Again, all applications need to be submitted through these two different PeerNet links. So please reach out to us with any questions. We look forward to your submissions.
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