In the fall of 2022, the application process will open for public K-12 schools to apply for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements grants from a new Department of Energy (DOE) program. DOE will be offering $500 million under a competitive grant program included as Section 40541 of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). This competitive grant program will be open from 2022 to 2026, or until all funds have been expended.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 53% of public school districts report the need to update or replace multiple building systems, including HVAC systems. Energy consumption is the second-highest operational expense schools face (after salaries and compensation) with a significant portion of energy lost through school walls and windows, and because of other inefficient equipment and systems.
Eligible entities for the grants include a combination of a local educational agency (like a school district) or other organization with the knowledge and capacity to partner and assist with energy improvements.
Projects eligible for grants include energy improvements or renovations to a school that result in a direct reduction in school energy costs. This may mean improvements to the air conditioning, ventilation, heating, domestic hot water heating, compressed air, distribution, lighting or power systems, as well as to controls of a building. Eligible projects also include any improvements or renovations in a school that lead to an improvement in teacher and student health, saves energy or involves the installation of renewable energy technologies.
Grants can also be used for the installation of alternative fueled vehicle infrastructure on school grounds for:
In awarding grants, the DOE shall give priority to schools:
In considering grant applications, DOE also will consider the extent of the disparity between the fiscal capacity of a school to carry out energy improvements and the needs of the partnering local educational agency for those energy improvements. It also will consider the likelihood that the school that is the subject of improvements is maintained in good condition, as well as the potential energy efficiency and safety benefits from the proposed energy improvements.
According to DOE guidance, only local educational agencies and public schools are eligible entities for funding; private schools are not eligible.
Get ready to apply
Keeping in mind that this is a competitive grant program, here are key steps schools should take to present the best case for funding: