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DOE Announces State Energy Program Funding

The US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) recently announced a funding opportunity for state governments through a competitive awards application process. The FOA, or Funding Opportunity Announcement, is designed for State Energy Programs (SEP) and has an enactment period of up to 24 months. The submission deadline is March 31, 2016. 

The FOA will award competitive projects in three areas of interest, including:

  1. State Energy Planning
  2. Innovative Opportunities for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Practices* – This area has five Topics of Interest sub-categories:
    1. Working with Utilities to Advance State Energy Reduction and/or Renewable Energy Generation Goals
    2. Enabling Financing Mechanisms for Public or Private Sector Clean Energy Investment
    3. Deploying Energy Performance Benchmarking and Disclosure
    4. Standardizing Evaluation, Measurement & Verification (EM&V) Processes
    5. Partnering with Local Governments
  3. Technical Assistance to Advance SEP Formula Grant Clean Energy Activities

*Some stipulations do exist for funds awarded under Area of Interest 2 – Innovative Opportunities for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Practices. The funding will likely not be awarded to projects that 1) implement specific project-level energy efficiency retrofits or upgrades or 2) directly capitalize financing programs. However, potential applicants under Area of Interest 2 are encouraged to design and develop programs that could lead to the implementation of retrofits using non-award funds. In addition, applicants with projects that develop the framework for financing programs are also urged to apply under this Area of Interest. Lastly, projects submitted under Area of Interest 2, sub-category “Partnering with Local Governments,” are only for open to States that have not received a SEP competitive award in the last four years (FY12-FY15).

We highlight this grant opportunity due to the large impact the grants can have in your communities, as well as the state’s overall energy savings and ability to meet the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

This funding opportunity is set aside for application by state governments, individually or jointly. It is anticipated that DOE will award up to $5.25 million in total funding for up to 20 projects chosen for this FOA (subject to FY2016 Congressional appropriations). Each area of interest has different funding and project maximums. MEEA recommends that state entities who are interested in applying first review the FOA document to confirm the specific grant opportunities.

Suggestions for State Government Applicants

We foresee this funding as an ideal opportunity for state governments to implement a number of energy savings strategies, assessments or program developments at the state or local governmental level

Some ideas MEEA has developed and suggest for inclusion in your FOA response include:

  • Readying Partners and Projects for a Clean Energy Incentive Program – Partner with local governments and other private sector entities on educational activities surrounding energy efficiency and the Clean Energy Incentive Program. The focus of this program could be towards engaging utility implementers and community-based groups. Employing such a program would ensure that the demand for efficiency does exist, should a state want to participate in the EPA’s Clean Energy Incentive Program.
  • Coordinating a Municipal Street Lighting Upgrade Program – A potential state-wide effort to synchronize the conversion of existing, municipally-owned street lights to LED fixtures with dimming controls, yielding significant energy savings and safer citizens. This type of project has the potential to be coordinated with utility-owned street lighting projects for increased bulk purchasing and/or additional savings.
  • Establishing State-wide Evaluation, Measurement and Verification (EM&V) Practices – Developing a process to review energy efficiency projects will be vitally important for using energy efficiency to comply with the Clean Power Plan, regardless of the approach a state takes for compliance. Educating policymakers, evaluators, resource planners and others on the EPA’s final EM&V guidance and requirements (expected later this year) would be the first step. This approach should also include developing a process to review current practices, as well as creating a plan to align your state’s EM&V protocols with the EPA’s requirements, while incorporating best practices.
  • Implementing a Public Building Energy Benchmarking Procedure – Creating a baseline of measured energy consumption in public facilities allows for accurate planning and energy billing confirmation. In addition, an established baseline for existing buildings assists state and local governments to track each building’s energy savings and emission reductions that have occurred or may occur in the future. Some Midwest states and cities have enacted these programs to great success – using them to confirm savings achieved by ESCOs or ESPs, and often see returns on their investment within the first year of implementation.

Resources for Potential Applicants

DOE webinars are planned for January 26 and January 27 to review relevant information on the grant application, suggested areas of interest, focus areas for topic(s), and will include time for questions/answers. Click here for more information about the webinars and important FOA dates. The full application submission deadline is March 31, 2016 at 5pm ET.

MEEA has the experience and the expertise to assist your state in developing or expanding existing programs which are applicable to these awards. Contact Julia Friedman (Clean Energy/EM&V), Rose Jordan (Streetlighting), or Steve Kismohr (Energy Data/Benchmarking) at MEEA to explore this FOA further.

Good luck to all the Midwestern states who apply!