In May 2023, OCED announced a $50 million grant Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) program for small community-driven projects. As a direct response to feedback from rural and remote communities, OCED simplified the application process, removed the cost-share requirement, offered technical assistance, and reduced the financial reporting requirements to deliver for rural America and eliminate barriers preventing access to federal funding. 

OCED required Pre-Application submittals and reviewed 659 submissions that proposed diverse clean energy projects across every region of the country and four U.S. Territories. Approximately $2.4 billion in federal funding was requested—roughly 48 times the size of DOE’s $50 million solicitation. OCED invited 59 Pre-Application submittals to submit a Full Application.

For the first phase of this grant funding opportunity, OCED required applicants to submit a Pre-Application by July 13, 2023 to solicit targeted information on the proposed project and how it will benefit the community. On September 1, 2023, OCED invited selected applicants to submit a Full Application, which is due by October 26, 2023. Applicants not invited to submit Full Applications will not be further considered for funding under this funding opportunity announcement. 

OCED held a webinar on September 7, 2023, to share updates about this funding opportunity, trends from the Pre-Application process and next steps for the Full Application process. 

A. OCED reviewed 659 Pre-Applications for the Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas program grant funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0003045).  

A. OCED notified applicants of the determination via a notification letter by email to the technical and administrative points of contact designated by the applicant in OCED eXCHANGE. The notification letter indicated whether the applicant is invited to submit a Full Application. OCED included general thematic comments on the Pre-Application.

A. Pre-Applications are significantly shorter than Concept Papers, which are required for other DOE funding opportunity announcements, and were used to simplify the process and provide greater accessibility. Pre-Applications result in highly meritorious applications moving forward and prevent applicants from expending additional resources developing a Full Application on a concept that did not score sufficiently high during the rigorous merit review evaluation process for highly competitive funding opportunities. Applicants not invited to submit Full Applications will not be further considered for funding under this funding opportunity announcement.  

A. As stated in Section 3.3 of the funding opportunity announcement, applicants could submit more than one Pre-Application provided that each Pre-Application described a unique, distinct concept. An applicant may only submit a subsequent Full Application to a Pre-Application in response to an invitation regarding that Pre-Application. 

A. Each Pre-Application was assessed based on the evaluation criteria listed in the Funding Opportunity Announcement that included factors such as community benefits and strategic community engagement and technical approach. 

A. To maintain confidentiality with applicants, OCED will not publish or share the names of applicants that were invited to submit a Full Application. However, applicants who submitted Pre-Applications may decide to publicize their Pre-Application information. To receive future news alerts from OCED, including updates on the ERA Grant FOA project selections, sign up here. 

A. Yes, applicants may share their Pre-Applications and OCED response.

A. No. OCED will invite only selected applicants to submit a Full Application. Applicants not invited to submit Full Applications will not be further considered for funding under this grant funding opportunity announcement.

A. No. An invitation simply means that the applicant is eligible to submit a Full Application.

A. Yes. On September 7, 2023, OCED will hold a webinar for interested parties and applicants to provide common themes and information to inform Full Applications. Once published, the recording of the webinar will be available under ERA program announcements here.     

A. OCED received Pre-Applications from all regions of the country.

A. OCED aims to award a diverse array of clean energy improvement projects that help advance meaningful community and labor engagement; quality jobs and workforce development; Energy and Environmental Justice and the Justice40 Initiative; and diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility—including methods to ensure accountability. Funding Opportunity Announcement Section 5.0.2 Criterion 1 explains, in detail, the elements that each application should demonstrate for a comprehensive Community Benefits Plan, which includes community engagement. 

A. Full Applications are due by October 26, 2023, at 5 p.m. ET. 

A. Additional information is available on  OCED Exchange. Applicants can review the Funding Opportunity Announcement Q&A log under the ERA section of the page.  

For more information regarding the ERA program, please visit the  OCED ERA webpage.