Follow the Money: Understanding the Tsunami of Energy Grant Programs in the Infrastructure Act

Blog
By Julia Damiano

On November 15, 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $1.2 trillion piece of legislation with $550 billion in new spending, became law. Included in the bill is nearly $100 billion in funding for grant programs (new and old) that implement clean energy and energy efficiency projects across the country. While these programs have the potential to revitalize our country’s economy, navigating them can be, quite frankly, overwhelming. After all, the White House guidebook outlining available opportunities and eligibility is a dense 465 pages. To help you follow the money, the PowerOptions team has compiled the following list, outlining major upcoming grants included in the new law relating to your energy needs. For a high-level overview, view the attached chart, where we break it down for you. Scroll down for details.

PowerOptions partners with Members on projects, planning, and applications for applicable grant programs. Feel free to reach out to one of the team members here to discuss any of these opportunities. We’ll also be reporting as new programs emerge. Sign up using the form below to receive updates and alerts as applications open.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program 

Eligibility: Municipalities

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program will provide $550 million to assist cities and towns, as well as states and tribal organizations, in energy use and fossil fuel reduction and energy efficiency improvements. Grants can be used to develop and implement energy efficiency and conservation strategies, to develop and implement programs to conserve energy used in transportation, conduction of residential and commercial building audits, among other uses. Of the available funds, 68 percent of the funds will be set aside for grant awards to cities and towns with a population of at least 35,000. While the Department of Energy has yet to state a timeline for the program, the next round of applications is expected to open in the later months of 2022.

Energy Storage Demonstration Pilot Grant Program

Eligibility: Municipalities and Universities

The Energy Storage Demonstration Pilot Grant Program will provide $335 million to municipalities and universities, and well as technology developers, states, tribal organizations, and utilities. Grant recipients must carry out three energy storage system demonstration projects which will: improve security of critical infrastructure and emergency response systems; improve reliability or optimize transmission and distribution systems; supply energy at peak demand periods on the electric grid; integrate fast charging of electric vehicles; and improve energy efficiency. While applications are not currently open, it is anticipated they will be within the next few months.

Grants for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Improvements at Public School Facilities

Eligibility: Public Schools and Non-profits

Included in the Federal Infrastructure Bill is $500 million for grants for energy efficiency, ventilation, renewable energy, and alternative fueled vehicle upgrades and improvements at nonprofits and public schools. Grant applications are anticipated to open within the next few months.

Long-Duration Energy Storage Demonstration Initiative and Joint Program

Eligibility: Municipalities and University Organizations

The Long-Duration Energy Storage Demonstration Initiative and Joint Program will provide $150 million to municipalities and universities, as well as states, utilities, and community-based organizations to fund projects that develop long-duration energy storage technologies at different scales, and projects that help new, innovative storage technologies become commercially viable. Applications are anticipated to open within the next few months.

SOLAR

Solar Improvement Research and Development

Eligibility: State Research Agency, Nonprofit Research Organizations, and Higher Education

While not a new program, the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act inserted $40 million into the Solar Improvement Research and Development program. Institutions of higher education, state research entities, nonprofit research organizations and others approved by the Department of Energy are eligible to apply to the program, which is geared toward activities that research, develop, and commercialize improvements to solar technology, including awarding competitive and merit-based grants, providing technical assistance, conducting education and outreach, and establishing/maintaining demonstration facilities and projects, just to name a few eligible uses. Applications for grants are anticipated to open during the late fall or early winter of 2022.

Solar Recycling Research and Development

Eligibility: State Research Agency, Nonprofit Research Organization, and Institutions of Higher Education

The Solar Recycling Research and Development program will award financial assistance to eligible entities for research, development, demonstration, and commercialization projects to create innovative and practical approaches to our solar recycling approach. Eligible entities include institutions of higher education, state and nonprofit research organizations, and others approved by the Department of Energy. It is anticipated that applications will open within the next few months.

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program

Eligibility: States

The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program will provide $5 billion nationally to strategically deploy electric vehicle charging stations, which will be divided up across the states in hopes of establishing an interconnected network of electric vehicle infrastructure for data collection, access, and reliability. Unlike other programs authorized by the Infrastructure Bill, the vast majority of these funds will not be available through a competitive grant process. Instead, the money will be sent directly to states via formula allocations. Eligibility is predetermined, and states do not need to apply. However, from the available funding, ten percent will be allocated toward competitive, discretionary (application-based) grants at the state and local level to provide additional support and assistance while deploying electric charging infrastructure. States must have their plan for how funding will be utilized submitted to the Federal Joint Office of Energy and Transportation no later than August 1, 2022.

Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grants

Eligibility: Municipalities

The Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Grants program comprises two separate grant opportunities, one geared toward community charging, and the other to create fueling infrastructure along alternative fuel corridors. Together, the programs will provide $2.5 billion to install electric vehicle charging and fuel infrastructure over a four-year period. From the available funds, fifty percent or $1.25 billion, will be distributed between the states to fund the installation of electric vehicle charging stations and alternative fuel infrastructure on public roads, schools, parks, and in publicly accessible parking facilities (rural, low- and moderate- income neighborhoods will be prioritized). The other half of the funding will provide the necessary means to deploy electric vehicle charging and hydrogen/propane/natural gas fueling infrastructure along designated alternative fuel corridors. Eligible applicants include municipalities, as well as states, metropolitan planning organizations, and public authorities with a transportation function. While the Department of Transportation has yet to state a timeline for the program, the Federal Highway Administration intends to publish a Notice of Funding Opportunity sometime this year.

Clean School Bus Rebate Program

Eligibility: Public School Districts, Certain Municipalities, and Nonprofit School Transportation Associations

Being administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean School Bus Rebate Program will provide funding to replace existing school buses with low- and zero-emission buses. Each year between 2022 and 2026, $500 million will be made available, plus an additional $500 million will be allocated exclusively toward zero-emission school buses, totaling an annual programmatic budget of $1 billion dollars. Applications for the program are now open and will be accepted through August 19, 2022. Those who apply for the program must have an active System for Award Management (SAM) entity registration.

HOW CAN YOU PREPARE FOR FUNDING?

While many programs have not yet stated a timeline for getting funds out of the door to states, municipalities, and other entities, there are steps Members can take to best lay the groundwork and prepare. First, it is important to determine projects that may be a good fit for certain programs authorized by the Infrastructure Bill. Not sure which programs align best with your goals? The PowerOptions team can provide more information on programs and help clarify eligibility and applicable uses for funding.

Also, keep in mind that all grants are subject to the requirements set forth by Build America, Buy America Act (BABA), which states all iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in federally funded infrastructure projects must be produced in the United States. The PowerOptions team is here to help — Feel free to reach out to our policy team to discuss any of these opportunities. Sign up using the form above to receive updates and alerts as applications open.

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