Today, the Office of State and Community Energy Programs (SCEP) celebrates two years since the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). This historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure, communities, and competitiveness, has allowed SCEP to take its service to the nation to higher heights, making waves throughout states, Native American tribes, local governments, nonprofits, schools, and other impactful community-serving organizations to provide funds and support equitable and just clean energy action powered by the people in those communities.
SCEP’s mission to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies, catalyze local economic development and create jobs, reduce energy costs, and avoid pollution through place-based strategies is undergirded by the signing of the BIL. SCEP’s programs also contribute to the Biden-Harris Administration’s Investing in America agenda and focuses on providing good-paying jobs and spurring economic growth across the country.
Because of the BIL, SCEP’s programs extend access to clean energy resources to disadvantaged, underserved, and energy-burdened communities, boosting the health of ALL communities and increasing efforts to achieve environmental justice.
Here are insights into how the BIL enables SCEP to reach American homes, businesses, and industries to save money, reduce energy and provide clean energy jobs. Through this work, SCEP is helping change the narrative about the clean energy transition by ensuring communities are not just hearing about opportunities but are taking advantage of them.
Reviving the Clean Energy Workforce
Through workforce development programs including grants to train and certify contractors in the clean energy sector and provide hands-on learning for students and apprentices for growing clean energy sector jobs, the BIL has made more than $200 million in grants available across four programs: Energy Auditor Training grants, Career Skills Training Program, State-Based Home Energy Efficiency Contractor Training Grants, and Building Training and Assessment Centers. These programs drive the creation of good-paying jobs and local economic growth across the U.S., especially in underserved and traditional energy communities and Tribes.
Renewing America’s Schools and Nonprofits
The BIL made a first-of-its-kind investment available to help school communities make energy upgrades that will lower utilities costs, improve indoor air quality, and foster healthier learning environments. SCEP celebrated the announcement of 24 local education agencies awarded $178 million in competitive grants.
The Energy Champions Leading the Advancement of Sustainable Schools Prize (CLASS) targeted high-needs K-12 schools by establishing, training, and supporting energy managers. The Energy CLASS Prize is a two-phase, $4.5 million competitive award promoting capacity building and energy management in school districts across America.
Nine nonprofit organizations will share $45 million in awards, and collaborate with 38 partners, to deliver energy improvements in approximately 300 nonprofit buildings across the country – including 28 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Reaching States, Local Communities, Native American Tribes, and Territories
BIL enabled Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funding to support states and local governments that will receive $550 million in grants to advance crucial clean energy and infrastructure upgrades. This record-breaking funding funds makes projects such as zero-carbon community building retrofits, energy audits to increase grid resiliency, and solar-powered streetlights possible. So far, nearly $32 million has been awarded to 35 grantees.
Another $500 million in BIL funding boosted the State Energy Program (SEP). The SEP provides funding to states to support planning activities and programs that help reduce carbon emissions in all sectors of the economy. The BIL also includes provisions to incentivize states to invest in electric transmission and distribution planning and accelerate the use of alternative transportation fuels and vehicle electrification.
Expanding Weatherization Assistance Programs
With the BIL came a $3.5 billion expansion of critical weatherization programs that allowed more categories and services for low-income home retrofits. Increased funding in the Weatherization Assistance Program’s Enhancement and Innovation grants and Sustainable Energy Resources for Consumers grants promotes innovation and renewable technologies to save consumers money, support deep energy retrofits of low-income residential buildings, and empower local community representation within the energy workforce.
SCEP recently held its first all-staff training, a comprehensive three-day training to reflect and position SCEP for greater success in aligning the resources from the BIL, as well as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and other funding that provide unprecedented opportunities to advance an equitable and just clean energy transformation. At the conclusion of the training, SCEP Director Dr. Henry McKoy charged the staff to think about how we can better connect to the people we serve.
Because of the BIL, SCEP is answering the call to serve the American people in greater ways to help ensure the clean energy future we all deserve reaches all.