September 2023 Director's Message
I have always heard that the best things come in three’s. If that is the case, then I am hopeful that this month’s newsletter will make you smile. We are living in a historical moment with unprecedented investments being made to transition our nation towards clean energy, towards deploying new technologies that will make homes more comfortable and energy efficient, while fighting climate change and saving people money.
Yet our nation faces a Catch-22 type situation when it comes to pushing this transition. It is often too expensive for homeowners (especially those in historically disadvantaged communities) to upgrade their homes to invest in energy efficiency. There is also a shortage of qualified green building professionals and contractors across the country who can conduct audits, provide useful recommendations, and/or install these upgrades. Adding to all this, new buildings are being built every day, yet how many are being built with energy efficiency and resilience in mind?
The Office of State and Community Energy Programs (SCEP) is addressing all of these issues—and more—through three major initiatives made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law: rebate programs, workforce training, and building energy code upgrades. Are you ready to smile?
- Empowering the Hispanic Community Through Home Energy Rebates and Training
- DOE Announces $400 Million for States to Improve Building Energy Codes
- Deadline to Apply for DOE’s Energy Future Grants (EFG) Extended to November 10
- DOE Announces More Than $18 Million to Support Clean Energy-Related Economic Development in Low-Income, Energy-Burdened Communities
- DOE Announces $10 Million to Expand Access to Clean Energy Workforce Training Programs
- DOE’s Community Power Accelerator Prize Round 2 Application Closing October 4
- Join DOE’s $7.49-Million Community Energy Innovation Prize to Develop Clean Energy Solutions That Help Shape the Future
- DOE Opens $10-Million Program to Improve Planning, Siting, and Permitting for Large-Scale Renewable Energy
- The Environmental Protection Agency Opens the Climate Pollution Reduction Implementation Grants Competition
- Applications Open for Multiple Clean Energy to Communities Opportunities
- New Equity Filters Available to Support State and Local Energy Planning
- DOE’s Low-Income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool Now Allows Users to Explore Household Energy Characteristics for Census Tracts Classified as Disadvantaged Communities
- DOE and Argonne Seek to Increase Access to Clean Energy Programs for Disinvested Communities
- White House Releases New Investing in America Technical Assistance Guide
- Save the Date: 2024 Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it's important to recognize how the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of State and Community Energy Programs (SCEP) can profoundly benefit the Hispanic community. Among the most impactful endeavors are the Home Energy Rebate Programs, which allocate nearly $9 billion in energy rebates for American households. Recent findings underscore a stark reality: the Hispanic community faces a median energy burden 24% higher than that of white households. These rebates hold transformative potential, offering a lifeline to struggling households. By embracing energy-efficient upgrades, a single eligible household can enjoy savings of up to $14,000.
Beyond energy rebates, our communities can benefit from remarkable training programs such as:
- The Career Training Program
- The State-Based Home Energy Efficiency Contractor Training Grants
- The Building Training and Assessment Centers Program
- Energy Auditor Training Grant Program
Through strategic rebates, training opportunities, and education, a brighter and more equitable energy future is within reach for all. Read our full story celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and visit the SCEP en español website to find resources in Spanish.
DOE’s SCEP Office released program guidance and opened applications for $400 million in formula funding to improve building energy codes that reduce utility bills, increase the efficiency and resilience of buildings, and reduce carbon emissions. Funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), states and territories can now access this funding for the adoption and implementation of the latest building energy codes and zero energy codes, paving the way for cleaner, more efficient buildings across the country.
SCEP recently released an Administrative and Legal Requirements Document (ALRD), which provides federal guidance in adopting and implementing two categories of building energy codes:
- $240 million will be available to adopt and implement the latest building energy code, the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for residential buildings and the ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1–2019 for commercial buildings, or other codes that achieve equivalent or greater energy savings.
- $160 million will be available to adopt and implement the zero energy provisions in the 2021 IECC, or other codes with equivalent or greater energy savings.
Interested states will need to opt-in to reserve their funding for these awards, with letters of intent due to DOE by November 21, 2023. DOE intends to release a complimentary competitive funding announcement that will provide direct support to states and local governments with code adoption authority for more innovative code approaches, including building performance standards, in the following months. For more information, visit the IRA Funded Technical Assistance for Building Energy Codes program webpage.
DOE’s SCEP Office is excited to announce that the Full Application Submission deadline has been extended to November 10, 2023, at 5 p.m. ET for the Energy Future Grants (EFG)!
EFG provides $27 million in financial assistance and technical assistance to support local, state, and tribal government-led partnership efforts that will advance clean energy program innovation. EFG seeks to enhance energy affordability and access for communities, ensuring the broad benefits of a clean energy economy—including health, economic development and jobs, and emissions reductions—flow to disadvantaged communities.
EFG will provide support for approximately 50 multijurisdictional teams (ideally 3-4 or more state, local, and tribal government partners). Teams will further partner with community benefit organizations to turn innovative (novel or early action) ideas into solutions that address barriers to clean energy deployment.
DOE has announced more than $18 million for the second round of Communities LEAP (Local Energy Action Program), a technical assistance program that facilitates community-wide economic empowerment through clean energy. Led by SCEP, this opportunity will support 24-32 low-income, energy-burdened communities that are also either disadvantaged or experiencing direct economic impacts from a shift away from fossil fuels. With technical assistance from Communities LEAP, communities that have been left behind for far too long can not only reap the many benefits of clean energy adoption but have a seat at the table to envision what their clean energy future looks like.
Communities LEAP participants will receive support in one of the following areas: clean energy planning and development, energy efficient buildings and building electrification, clean transportation, carbon capture and storage, critical minerals resource potential from energy wastes and by-products, community resilience microgrids, new or enhanced manufacturing, advanced nuclear technology and support for existing reactors, and Puerto Rico community resilience. At the end of the 12–18-month project period, communities will receive an action plan that prepares them to take further steps towards realizing their goals.
The application deadline is November 30, 2023, at 5 p.m. ET. Selections are expected to be announced February 2024. Learn more about this initiative, upcoming informational webinars, and how to apply.
DOE is now accepting applications for a new competitive funding opportunity for grants that expand existing energy efficiency workforce training programs. Authorized by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Career Skills Training program (CST) will provide up to $10 million in competitive grants for nonprofit partnerships between public or private industry and labor organizations to deliver programs that provide both energy efficiency classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Program participants will obtain industry-related certifications to install energy-efficient building technologies.
This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) provides application instructions, program guidance, and a list of eligible entities who can apply. Applicants will need to submit a Community Benefit Plan along with their application, detailing how their proposal will support local community and labor; invest in the workforce; advance diversity, equity, and inclusion; and aid economic and environmental justice initiatives.
Applicants can sign up for regular updates, including a webinar on October 3, 2023, that will provide insights into the FOA and application process. Visit SCEP’s Career Skills Training program webpage to sign up for updates. The application deadline is November 27, 2023, at 5 p.m. ET.
The October 4 deadline is rapidly approaching to apply for the Community Power Accelerator Prize - Round 2.
The Community Power Accelerator Prize: Accessing Capital to Deploy Equitable Community Solar is a $10 million competition designed to fast-track the efforts of new, emerging, and expanding solar developers and co-developers. By participating in the prize, they’ll have opportunities to learn and grow their operations to support multiple successful community solar projects. Community solar developers or co-developers interested in expanding, while incorporating meaningful benefits into multiple community solar projects are eligible to compete and can sign up on the HeroX platform.
Competitors can earn up to $400,000 each in prizes across three rounds of the competition. They’ll need to show notable progress in project pre-development activities and enable access to at least two of the five meaningful benefits of community solar identified by DOE’s National Community Solar Partnership. These benefits include low- to moderate-income household access, greater household savings, resilience and grid benefits, community ownership, and equitable workforce development.
Applications are due on October 4 at 5 p.m. ET. Learn more about the prize and the application process.
Ready to bring equitable clean energy and energy efficiency initiatives to your community? Join the $7.49- million Community Energy Innovation Prize and strategize ways to provide support, build trust, and strengthen relationships and partnerships with underserved communities while advancing the clean energy transition. The prize is now open to community-based organizations, the private sector, nonfederal government entities, and collegiate teams!
The Community Energy Innovation Prize is made up of three tracks: the Clean Energy Ecosystem Track, the Manufacturing Ecosystem Track, and the Collegiate Track, each of which has distinct goals and submission requirements over three phases: CONCEPT, PROGRESS, and IMPACT. Applicants can apply to both the Clean Energy Ecosystem Track and the Manufacturing Ecosystem Track with distinct submissions. Competitors may be selected as a winner for one or both tracks. In addition to prize awards, winning teams in all three tracks will receive in-kind mentorship and other support services.
Learn more about how to bring your innovative idea to life with the Community Energy Innovation Prize.
DOE announced that applications can now be submitted for a $10-million funding and technical assistance program to expand state and local government capacity to support the planning, siting, and permitting of large-scale renewable energy projects on private land. This opportunity is part of DOE’s new Renewable Energy Siting through Technical Engagement and Planning (R-STEP) program and will support the creation of new, or the expansion of existing, state-based programs or initiatives that improve renewable energy siting processes at the state and local levels.
DOE anticipates awarding approximately five to seven state-based collaboratives (Collaboratives) up to $2 million each to establish or expand their programs or initiatives. Collaboratives will also benefit from tailored technical assistance and peer-learning opportunities. DOE highly encourages state energy offices (or equivalent agencies) and university extension offices to lead or participate in applications, but recognizes that the organizations best suited to perform these activities will vary from state to state. Collaboratives can also include, but are not limited to, Tribal governments, academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and community-based organizations.
Learn more about this opportunity and submit an application on ENERGYWERX’s Ratio Exchange website. Interested applicants can join R-STEP Office Hours on October 11 between 1 and 2 p.m. ET. Questions about the R-STEP program can be submitted to email@example.com.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the availability of $4.6 billion as part of the Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG). These grant competitions consist of one general competition and one specifically for Tribes and territories. Eligible applicants from states, municipalities, Tribes, or territories will compete for CPRG implementation grants to fund measures in their climate action plans.
The two new competitions are part of the second tranche of funding from the CPRG program. EPA has already made $250 million available to fund the development of climate action plans, and nearly all states, plus major cities opted in to receive these flexible planning resources. The $4.6-billion implementation grant competitions launched today will fund initiatives developed under the first phase of the program. As part of its evaluation of applications, EPA will prioritize measures that achieve the greatest amount of greenhouse gas emissions reductions. EPA also describes how the agency intends to score applications and award the competitive funds to implementation grant recipients.
The deadline to apply to the general competition is April 1, 2024. The deadline to apply to the Tribes and territories competition is May 1, 2024. EPA will hold two informational webinars about the general competition on October 3 at 3 p.m. ET, and the Tribes and territories competition on October 5 at 1 p.m. ET.
DOE’s Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) program is now accepting applications for two technical assistance opportunities: Peer-Learning Cohorts and Expert Match. Peer-Learning Cohorts convene up to 15 communities around common energy topics to learn from each other and national energy experts over 6 months. Applications for the next round of cohorts will remain open through Oct. 31. Expert Match, which accepts applications year-round, pairs communities with national laboratory researchers to provide tailored solutions that address communities’ short-term energy goals over the course of about 3 months.
C2C connects local governments, tribes, electric utilities, and community-based organizations with national laboratory experts and customized, cutting-edge analysis to achieve clean energy systems that are reflective of local and regional priorities. By bringing together innovative technology, state-of-the-art modeling, and unique abilities to test clean energy plans before installing them in the field, C2C can help close the gap between clean energy ambitions and real-world deployment.
Learn more about these two offerings, as well as Peer-Learning Cohort topics and eligibility requirements, on the C2C website.
The State and Local Planning for Energy (SLOPE) Platform recently added equity filters to help communities prioritize equitable and inclusive clean energy planning and investments.
Equity filters are overlayed on seven existing data layers, allowing users to explore both community vulnerability and clean energy potential. Look for a scale icon next to each data layer with equity filters available.
Equity filters allow users to highlight census tracts that meet user-specified levels for:
- Household Energy Burden
- Transportation Energy Burden
- Social Vulnerability Index Percentile.
SLOPE users can use equity filters to target renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable transportation investments, programs, and outreach efforts to the particular needs of underserved communities. For example, the Social Vulnerability Index Minority Status & Language scores can identify areas where community liaisons and translation services could further outreach and education efforts. Energy efficiency programming can target investments in neighborhoods with high household energy burdens, or the percentage of income spent on energy bills.
SLOPE is a collaboration between DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory designed to support data-driven state and local energy and planning. Visit the SLOPE Platform to learn more about how to use these new equity filters for your energy planning needs.
DOE’s Low-Income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool helps stakeholders make data-driven decisions on energy goals and program planning by improving their understanding of low-income and moderate-income household energy characteristics. LEAD estimates household energy burden at the state, county, city, and census tract levels based on income, energy expenditures, primary heating fuel type, and housing type.
This past month LEAD incorporated data from the White House Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), a geospatial mapping tool used to identify disadvantaged communities. CEJST uses publicly available datasets to identify disadvantaged communities, which are census tracts that face disproportionate burdens related to climate change, energy, health, socioeconomic status, and other categories of burden. Communities are considered disadvantaged if they meet the thresholds for at least one of the tool’s categories of burden, or if they are on lands within the boundaries of Federally Recognized Tribes.
Now users can improve their understanding of low- and moderate-income characteristics (e.g., energy burden, annual average housing energy costs, housing counts, ownership, number buildings units, and primary heating fuel type) within disadvantaged communities, identify target areas, start new low-income programs, and use the information for outreach or educational purposes. The tool can also be used to inform strategic planning or to support independent research.
To access this new dataset, ensure “Census Tracts” is selected in the Map Regions and turn on the “Show Disadvantaged Communities” feature on the Map Settings tab.
While clean energy initiatives can improve communities and quality of life for residents, access to necessary funding for long-term investments can often be the biggest challenge — particularly for communities most in need.
This was a key focal point of recent engagements between DOE’s Office of State and Community Energy Programs (SCEP) and Chicago-based community leaders, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations. The engagements, convened by DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, highlighted grants available to communities to invest in cost-effective and productive energy solutions. It was also a chance for SCEP representatives to learn about active community initiatives and how the DOE can increase its partnership in deploying targeted solutions.
The DOE team participated in listening sessions with local stakeholders and a tour led by community leaders Paula Robinson, president of Bronzeville Partners; Andrew Wells, vice president of workforce development for The Chicago Urban League; Andre and Frances Guichard, owners of Gallery Guichard; and Shala Akintunde, solar artist. The tour included the following stops, with each assigned a community leader to talk about its history and impact: The Bronzeville Community Microgrid; The Chicago Urban League Solar Installation; and Shala’s Bronzeville Solar Pyramid.
Learn more about these community tours and conversations here.
President Biden’s Investing in America agenda unlocks billions of dollars in opportunity for states, territories, Tribes, and local governments to make a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure, clean energy, and climate resilience. Over 90% of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s historic funding will be deployed by nonfederal partners. And the Inflation Reduction Act provides state, local, Tribal, territorial, and nongovernmental partners significant new funding for clean energy, climate mitigation and resilience, agriculture, and conservation-related investments through both grant funding and tax credits.
While there are many programs across the federal government dedicated to technical assistance, navigating the vast landscape of programs and resources can be challenging for communities. To ease this burden, the Biden Administration is committed to closing access gaps and making these opportunities transparent and available through a comprehensive new technical assistance guide.
Mark your calendars: the U.S. Department of Energy's 2024 Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit will be April 2–4 in Washington, D.C. This event will feature engaging and interactive sessions, as well as opportunities for attendees to network with industry peers and national experts. Registration details are coming soon.
This annual event provides the opportunity for partners and key stakeholders to explore emerging technologies and share innovative strategies in energy efficiency, decarbonization, water and waste reduction, and more. Learn more.