The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) intends to issue a funding opportunity next month for up to $300 million to improve the cost, reliability, environmental impact, and climate resilience of energy systems in rural or remote areas across the country with 10,000 or fewer inhabitants.
The anticipated funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for the Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) program aims to fund projects with the following three goals:
Deliver measurable benefits to energy customers in rural or remote areas by funding energy projects that lower energy cost, improve energy resilience, and/or reduce environmental harm
Demonstrate new rural or remote energy system models using climate-resilient technologies, new business structures and workforce models, new financing mechanisms, and/or new community engagement best practices
Build clean energy knowledge, capacity, and self-reliance in rural America in order to enhance ease of replicability in similarly situated communities
For this program, DOE anticipates a federal cost share ranging between $5-100 million. Projects funded through this FOA will help to de-risk investment in the energy infrastructure of rural or remote communities, promoting replicability and insights for future investments. DOE intends to award projects that will increase energy affordability and promote resilience of the local energy system against detrimental effects of climate change.
Interested applicants will be required to submit a Community Benefits Plan to outline how the project will support community and workforce engagement, invest in the American workforce, advance energy, and environmental justice, and promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
To provide equal opportunity to qualified applicants from rural and remote areas across the United States, this FOA is organized into nine geographic regions to reflect regional diversity in energy consumption and access, varying weather patterns, and climate impacts. In addition, OCED is offering a related prize competition, the Energy Rural Communities Prize and technical assistance to enable capacity building and continuous strategic engagement. Through these programs and ongoing public engagement, OCED will continue to answer questions during the application process. Applications for the Energy Rural Communities Prize will open in the coming weeks.
Distinct from the upcoming FOA, prize, and technical assistance, OCED is developing a simplified approach for projects seeking less than $5 million in federal funding. More about this last category of programming will be announced soon.
For more information about the characteristics of rural America from an energy infrastructure and socioeconomic basis, including social equity and environmental justice considerations, please visit the ERA Program geospatial map tool.