EERE Network News gets facelift, new delivery date

One of your best resources for the latest developments in clean energy and wise energy use (besides the Energy Services Bulletin, of course) is about to make some changes. Starting Nov. 10, the EERE Network News will become the EERE Weekly Digest of Clean Energy News and arrive in your inbox each Thursday.
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There’s more: The new weekly newsletter will spotlight some of the fresher content offered by EERE, including videos and blogs. Browse the video gallery for short features on topics ranging from efficiency programs to technology to competition to financing. The EERE blog covers current Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy projects, interviews with energy experts and success stories about EERE’s technology offices and national laboratories.

If you don’t already subscribe to the EERE newsletter, You are leaving WAPA.gov. there is no time like the present to change that. Just a sample of what you missed in this week’s issue includes stories on the 40th anniversary of the DOE National Weatherization Program and Zillow’s partnership with the Sunshot Initiative.

You can also subscribe to newsletters that focus on specific technology programs. Key accounts managers may be interested in advanced manufacturing or building technology updates. The FEMP Digest offers valuable news for facilities managers, federal and otherwise. For resource planners, publications on wind, solar, geothermal, bioenergy and fuel cells highlight activities, projects, events and education and funding opportunities.

The changes in the electric utility industry are coming hard and fast and can sometimes seem overwhelming. The EERE newsletters make it a little easier for busy professionals to keep up with—and maybe even get ahead of—the next big issues.

Source: EERE Network News, 11/2/16

DOE funding available for projects to improve electric grid

The Energy Department announced on Feb. 7 that it is offering up to $7 million in funding to advance the design of technologies that help communities become more adaptive and prepared for power outages caused by severe weather and other events.

Microgrids are localized grids that are normally connected to the existing electric grid but can disconnect to operate autonomously, manage and control the flow of electricity and help mitigate grid disturbances. These distributed systems are able to cost-effectively integrate storage and distributed generation such as renewable energy, while also supporting demand management programs.

The Microgrid Research, Development and System Design funding opportunity will help communities to take an innovative and comprehensive approach to microgrid design and implementation. Technology developers and providers must partner with communities and utilities to design microgrid systems of up to 10 megawatts, which is enough to power a small community. Systems that protect critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and water treatment plants, will also receive favorable consideration.

For more details on the Microgrid Research, Development, and System Design FOA, visit Grants.gov and FedConnect.net. Use reference number DE-FOA-0000997. The FOA includes information about cost-sharing requirements for government-industry cooperation. The deadline for submitting applications is April 28, 2014.

Energy department now accepting applications for START, round 2

As part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to help Tribal communities across the country enhance their energy security and build a sustainable energy future, the Energy Department has announced the second round of the Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program. Federally recognized Tribal governments can receive technical assistance to accelerate clean energy project deployment from this program. The Energy Department also plans to seek information from tribes interested in launching or expanding utility services in their own communities, which will help establish a new START Utility Program (START-UP).

The new technical assistance opportunities will strengthen the nation’s partnership with tribal communities, create good jobs and protect the planet, stated Office of Indian Energy Director Tracey LeBeau. “Working side by side with tribal energy leaders across the country, we are making sure Native American and Alaska Native Tribes have the tools and resources they need to foster economic competitiveness and promote tribal self-sufficiency,” she said.

Over the past year, the START Program helped nine tribal communities advance their clean energy technology and infrastructure projects, from solar and wind to biofuels and energy efficiency. In the current round of START projects, energy experts from the Energy Department’s national laboratories and other Federal agencies worked with tribal leaders to develop strategic community energy plans, conduct market research and identify financing mechanisms to support cost-effective renewable energy project development.

The next round of technical assistance awards will build upon the program’s initial successes. Native communities will receive further help increasing local generation capacity, enhancing energy-efficiency measures and creating local entrepreneurial and job opportunities. In the contiguous United States, awards will support tribes developing community-scale clean energy projects across the country. Alaska’s Denali Commission and Energy Department experts will help rural Alaska Native communities conduct energy awareness and training programs, and pursue new renewable energy and energy-efficiency opportunities.

Visit the Energy Department’s Office of Indian Energy website to learn more about the START Program and application requirements. Applications are due by March 15, 2013.

New program for tribal utility planning

To support affordable and reliable electrical service to Indian lands and tribal communities, the Energy Department is launching a new tribal START Utility Program (START-UP). Expanding on the current START Program, START-UP will help tribes across the country develop their own utility services and increase ownership of local energy assets.

In an effort to tailor the program to the needs of Indian Country, the Department plans to gather information and public comment from tribes interested in developing, acquiring or expanding utility services in their own communities. Check the Office of Indian Energy website in the coming weeks for more details on this outreach. Source: DOE Office of Indian Energy, 1/29/13

DOE offers $20mn for projects integrating solar and fossil fuels

The U.S. Energy Department (DOE) announced $20 million in new funding for two to four projects that will help integrate concentrating solar power (CSP) systems with fossil fuel power plants. The DOE seeks applications from industry, universities, and national laboratories. Read the full story.

If interested, act quickly as a letter of intent is due by Jan 14, 2013 with the full application due in mid-March, 2013. See the RFI for more information on the funding. Source: Renewable Energy World, 12/31/12

DOE funds development of energy-saving building technologies

As part of its efforts to help homeowners and businesses save money by saving energy, the Energy Department (DOE) is investing $9 million in leading-edge building envelope technologies, including high-efficiency, high-performance windows, roofs, and heating and cooling equipment.

In his announcement, Energy Secretary Steven Chu noted that a typical American family spends nearly $2,000 per year on their home energy bills, much of which is wasted on air leaks and drafts in houses’ roofs, attics and walls. “By bringing new, affordable energy-efficient products to the market, we can help families save money by saving energy, while strengthening U.S. manufacturing leadership in technologies that are increasingly in demand worldwide,” said Chu.

This new investment focuses on improving whole-home energy performance through six advanced manufacturing projects in California, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Missouri and Tennessee. Funding includes:

  • About $6.5 million in four projects to develop highly efficient, cost-effective heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
  • About $3 million to two projects targeting building envelope materials.

In Western’s territory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will develop and test highly insulated, easy-to-install windows that use automated shading that can capture or repel heat depending on the season. Projects elsewhere include the St. Louis, Missouri-based Unico developing a cold climate heat pump with a variable speed compressor that will maintain capacity and efficiency even at very low temperatures. The University of Idaho will design and demonstrate a roof sandwich panel that uses foam material to increase building thermal efficiency and helps reduce construction costs by 25 percent.

From 1990 to 2007, U.S. energy use per capita remained fairly consistent. In the last five years, however, improvements in building efficiency for space heating and air conditioning have helped to reduce consumption. Nearly 60 percent of homes now feature energy-efficient, multi-pane windows—up from 36 percent in 1993. About 40 million households have sealed air leaks with caulking or weather-stripping, and 26 million have added insulation. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects that energy use per capita will continue to fall by an additional 15 percent through 2040.

Greater savings can be achieved through more improvements. A typical residential or commercial building loses about 42 percent of energy through doors, roofs, attics, walls, floors and foundations—the building envelope. In the winter months, windows alone can account for 10 to 25 percent of a home’s utility bill through heat loss. The projects receiving funding will help bring new, affordable technologies to market and create opportunities for improved building performance and cost savings.

Learn more about these projects and find additional information on how the Energy Department is helping American homes and businesses save money by saving energy at EnergySaver.gov and through the Buildings Technologies Program. Source: DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 12/21/12

DOE Awards $6.5 Million for Tribal Clean Energy

DOE announced on Feb. 16 that 19 clean energy projects by tribal nations would receive more than $6.5 million to support tribal energy development. The competitively selected projects in 10 states will allow American Indian tribes to assess local energy resources, develop renewable energy projects and deploy clean energy technologies within their communities. The projects will help save money and create new job and business opportunities.

The projects selected for awards fall under three project areas:

  • Feasibility studies
  • Renewable energy development projects
  • Installation projects

Thirteen tribes will use the funds to study the feasibility of developing renewable energy resources or installing renewable energy systems on their lands to reduce energy use by 30 percent. For example, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Pablo, Mont., will evaluate the technical and economic viability of a co-generation biomass-fuel power plant that uses fuels from tribal forest management activities to provide up to 20 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

Three renewable energy development projects will receive pre-construction funds for new renewable energy generation and one will significantly cut the need for diesel heating fuel. In one case, the Penobscot Indian Nation in Old Town, Maine, will complete the preparation needed to secure funding for the proposed 227-megawatt Alder Stream Wind Project.

Also receiving funding are two projects to deploy technologies that convert waste and biomass into energy. The Oneida Seven Generations Corp., De Pere, Wis., will build a state-of-the-art waste gasification energy recovery facility capable of converting 150 tons of municipal waste into 5 MW of electricity per hour. See the DOE press release, the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, and the project descriptions.

Source: DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 2/22/12

Study finds energy-efficiency loan financing a solid investment

Lending agencies take note: Loans made to finance energy-efficiency upgrades have low default rates, according to a new study from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy External link information (ACEEE).

The 24 energy-efficiency loan programs reviewed for What Have We Learned from Energy Efficiency Financing Programs? revealed default rates ranging from 0 to 3 percent, a number that has remained largely unchanged during the collapse of the housing bubble. Moreover, existing loan programs are just scratching the surface of the potential market, according to the report’s authors. Less than .5 percent of the targeted customer class is participating in the programs, suggesting a significant untapped market.

The loan programs provide funding directly to building owners or managers for projects that lower energy bills and reduce annual energy costs by an average of 12 to 17 percent. Small commercial banks and credit unions are the agencies most often offering these programs, sometimes in collaboration with utilities or local and state governments. The programs evaluated by the ACEEE report have loaned out over $1.5 billion. Subsidies and energy program funds keep interest rates for borrowers at about 3 to 5 percent annually.

Read the ACEEE press release.

Free webinar covers financing options for municipal energy projects

PLUS : How Fowler, Colo., financed its energy projects with NO upfront costs

Sept. 13, 2011, 11 a.m. Central Time 

There is more than one way for municipalities to finance energy-efficiency and renewable energy projects, and a free webinar Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. Central Time will be exploring some of those options. Hosted by Energy Forefront, Municipal Financing Options for Renewable Energy External link information will focus on how local governments can help homes, businesses and their own facilities use less energy or even generate it.

Three presentations will examine various methods available to municipalities for financing renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects, either for the municipality or for their citizens and business owners. Topics include:

  • Multiple Methods that Cities/Towns Could Use to Finance Renewable Energy and Energy-efficiency Projects, including Federal tax benefits, aggregation, securitization of smaller projects, 501c3 non-profit corporations and more – Baird Brown, attorney at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
  • How Various Cities & Towns Structured their Energy Financing – Vincent DeVito, Attorney at Bowditch & Dewey LLP
  • Financing Municipal Renewable Energy Projects with No Upfront Costs describes how Fowler, Colo., procured financing for wind solar, biomass and several other energy-related projects without any upfront costs to the city – Wayne Snider

Reserve your place today.

USDA grants fund renewable, energy-efficiency projects in Western territory

More than 180 agricultural producers and rural small businesses in Western’s 15-state territory received grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help them reduce their energy use.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Aug. 17 the awarding of funds through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) totaling more than $11.6 million and covering all 50 states. “These investments enable our farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners to develop renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements that will save them thousands of dollars in energy costs each year,” said Vilsack.

Award funding  is contingent on the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant agreement. Grants can finance up to 25 percent of a project’s cost, not to exceed $500,000 for renewables or $250,000 for efficiency. Eligible projects include energy-saving equipment, systems or improvements, energy audits and renewable energy development assistance. Applicants must be project owners located in a rural area, and the project must be technically feasible. An example is the Simpsons Brothers Greenhouses in Ovid, Mich., which received an $18,000 grant to make energy-efficiency improvements, such as installing greenhouse energy curtains designed to reduce energy consumption by 42 percent.

State, tribal or local government agencies; higher education institutions; rural electric cooperatives or public power utilities are eligible to apply for REAP grants. Utilities may also bring the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy into their communities and strengthen customer relations by helping consumers apply. Farmers, ranchers and small business owners may need energy audits or other types of technical assistance to improve their chances of receiving funding.

If your utility assisted a customer with applying for a REAP grant, share your experience with Energy Services. If you would like more information on the Rural Energy for America Program, contact your Rural Development state program office. Download the list of this year’s REAP awardees to see what kind of projects are receiving funding.

The Colorado Governor’s Energy Office Planning Horizon

Joani Matranga, Western Regional Representative, Colorado Governor’s Energy Office

The bad news is that Colorado’s energy efficiency rating according to ACEEE slipped to 19th in the nation. The good news is that states are leading the way to develop a clean energy economy.

While the issue of climate change is a non-starter with the public, we can get most of the way toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions with energy efficiency policies, which have more public support. The Colorado Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) has written a climate action plan that will be coming out soon. Energy efficiency is a key part of the plan.

Over the last four years, the state has passed more than 50 energy-related legislations. Those policies and programs got a big boost from the $180 million in Recovery funds GEO received.

Broad renewable energy deployment is still hampered by lack of information, capital and services. GEO’s RechargeColorado program is the one stop shop to get information to commercial and residential energy users. Starting Oct. 27 Recharge Colorado will launch a marketing blitz to push out the program’s available funding. There is a lot of money left for appliances and insulation, and for renewable energy systems, as well.

To address the financing issues, GEO is working with the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority to offer retrofitting loans to small businesses. Green Business Loans are available for starting up manufacturing operations to produce energy efficiency and renewable energy equipment. Homeowners can access Clean Energy Financing for homeowners to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds are available to fund projects of $50 million or more. The state legislature has approved the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, but it is on hold at the Federal level.

Many Recovery-funded services have been launched and are going strong. Energy performance contracting is successfully helping schools and public buildings improve energy efficiency where bond issues can’t be passed. GEO is working with local entities to tighten building codes. Although new home starts in the state are flat, Energy Star for Homes has been going well. The Main Street Efficiency program is building capacity in local communities to improve energy efficiency in rural areas. Also, an Industrial Challenge is calling on the state’s 100 largest energy users to reduce their consumption this year.

GEO has released the Renewable Energy Development Infrastructure Report listing strategies for the electric sector. A key finding is that energy efficiency can help utilities avoid building new generation.

Federal grants have been a great source of direct funding for cities and counties developing their own sustainability plans. For 52 rural communities, 18 community energy coordinators have been hired. Most of these are nonprofits that provide technical assistance to rural communities. People are more open to addressing water, waste and energy issues.

The city of Boulder received a $25 million Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant to partner with Denver and Garfield counties to replicate programs that upgrade building efficiency. Another $5 million EECBG went to Eagle to do the same with Pitkin and Gunnison counties.

Going forward, the state of the economy continues to drive change. People are also relatively concerned for the environment, the governor has shown leadership and public/private partnerships have been very productive.

However, to reach GEO goals, the qualified workforce needs to grow. Rural cooperatives are still trying to figure out how the goals fit into their mission.

Even so, the conversation has advanced a lot in just a few years.