At the National Hydropower Association conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this week, Department of Energy ("DOE") Secretary Steven Chu and Department of the Interior ("DOI") Secretary Ken Salazar announced a $26.6 million grant program to advance the development, testing, validation, modeling, and interconnection of advanced conventional hydropower systems. The agencies' news came at the same time that the DOE's Oakridge National Laboratory announced that as much of 12.6 GW (12,600 MW) of additional hydropower capacity can be drawn from the nation's waterways if generating facilities are added to 54,000 dams (including federal projects) that currently do not have them. The top 100 of those sites could add up to as much as 8 GW (8,000 MW) of capcity.
Topics 1, 2, and 3 of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000486) will be funded by the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy ("EERE"). Topic 4 will be jointly funded by the EERE and the DOI's Bureau of Reclamation. The topics are as follows:
- Topic 1. Sustainable Small Hydropower. $10.5 million over three years to advance research and development of small hydropower facilities to be installed at existing facilities (e.g., dams, conduits).
- Topic 2. Sustainable Pumped Storage Hydropower. $11.875 million over four years to provide assistance to projects already in development. Preference will go to projects that will begin construction in 2014 and assist with grid integration of variable resources like wind and solar.
- Topic 3. Environmental Mitigation Technologies for Conventional Hydropower. $2.25 million over three years for R&D related to issues facing conventional hydropower technologies (e.g., turbine efficiencies and fish mortality).
- Topic 4. Advanced Hydropower System Testing at a Bureau of Reclamation Facility. $2 million over three years for system testing of low-head hydropower technologies at existing, non-powered Bureau of Reclamation facilities.
Letters of Intent for the FOA are due no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on May 5, 2011. Applications are due no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on June 6, 2011.
DOE Secretary Chu's announcement today regarding $80 million of ARRA funding for biofuels is potentially a positive development for the long-term development of the biofuels industry. What is worrisome from a practical perspective is the division of funding. The National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts, centered in St. Louis, received $44 million to develop a systems approach for the sustainable commercialization of algal biofuel and bioproducts. The National Advanced Biofuels Consortium, based here in the Pacific Northwest, received up to $34 million to develop infrastructure compatible biomass-based fuels. Meanwhile eight infrastructure projects received up to $1.6 million to support expanded fueling infrastructure for ethanol blends. While the Administration is ahead of the curve in recognizing the importance of long-term support for the development of advanced biofuels, it is overlooking the increasingly challenging environment in first generation biofuels. Simply put- and purely in my opinion- there will be no second generation of biofuels if the first generation does not again thrive. The ethanol industry has hit a blend wall that the EPA has not been willing to help them overcome in the short term. Adding $1.6 million in E-85 infrastructure is but a chip in that wall when one considers the massive costs involved in building a national infrastructure. On the biodiesel side, the current industry has not yet received an extension of its tax credit and was already facing severe challenges. The investors who supported the expansion of the first generation biofuels industry are still tracking their investments and the policy support for the industry. While government funding will further the development of the science of advanced biofuels, private sector involvement will be essential to the ultimate commercialization of these fuels. To accomplish its ultimate goals, the Administration will need to begin to address these issues in a systematic manner.
Show me the Money: Washington State Issues Final Guidance for Competitive Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides $3.2 billion for energy efficiency and conservation block grants. Most of this money has been allocated directly to various local governments. Washington has an additional $6.4 million available through a competitive grant program.
Washington’s competitive grant program is administered through its Department of Commerce. Today, the Department of Commerce has announced the issuance of final guidelines for applications by smaller cities and counties for funds from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program. Cities with populations lower than 35,000 and counties with populations lower than 200,000 are eligible to apply. Eligible cities and counties may choose to sub-grant their funds to other local governments, non-profits, or the private sector consistent with the guidelines.
The application guidelines, form, and frequently asked questions are available at www.commerce.wa.gov/recovery. The Department of Commerce will host a webinar on September 10, 2009, 9:00-11:00a.m., to review the final guidelines and answer questions. You can register for the webinar at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/352879171. For more information contact Heather Ballash at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In recent days, there have been rumors circulating that Treasury would issue "pre-approvals" for ITC grants in cases where construction begins in 2009 or 2010 but the project is not placed in service before 2011. You will recall that projects may still qualify for the ITC grant in those cases if they meet the placed in service deadline (12/31/12 for wind, 12/31/16 for solar and 12/31/13 for all others).
This rumor has some people excited because it is different than what Treasury had been saying and what attorneys had been advising. Previously, it was believed that Treasury would merely "accept" applications and wait until the project was placed in service to determine if it qualified for the ITC grant.
We have been told definitively by Treasury that the rumor is false. Treasury will not "pre-approve" projects for the ITC grant subject only to meeting the placed in service deadline. According to Treasury:
"We will not be issuing 'advance rulings' on projects for which construction begins but are not placed in service. What we outlined on page 3 of the 1603 Guidance document, ' II. Application Procedures' has not changed. We will not issue preliminary approvals because too many things can change by the time a specified property is placed in service. We believe the applicants and lenders should have a good idea if the proposed property meets the requirements of the 1603 program upon reading the application, guidance, terms and conditions, etc.
Stoel Rives has developed an extremely good relationship with individuals at Treasury administering the ITC grant program. We appreciate their candor and willingness to clarify how they intend to run the program.
If you have any questions about this issue, please do not hesitate to contact your favorite Stoel Rives attorney.
About a month ago we issued an alert regarding a $45 million funding opportunity announcement ("FOA") for the development of a wind turbine drivetrain testing facility (alert available here).
Today, the Department of Energy ("DOE") announced that they are hosting a webinar regarding this FOA. The webinar will be held July 30, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. Through this webinar, DOE will provide a brief overview of the FOA and will participate in a question and answer period. However, all questions must be submitted in advance (by July 27, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern) to windDynamometer@go.doe.gov
To attend this webinar, register in advance by clicking here.
USDA recently announced that it will deploy up to $20 million to encourage the use of renewable biomass as a replacement fuel source for fossil fuels as well as to provide process heat or power in the operation of eligible biorefineries. Eligible biorefineries are biorefineries that meet all of the following criteria:
- Convert renewable biomass into biofuels and biobased products and may produce electricity
- Located in rural areas
- In existence on or before June 18, 2009
- Primary production is liquid transportation biofuels
USDA may make payments under this program to any biorefinery that meets the program requirements for up to three years. USDA will determine the amount of payments to be made to a biorefinery based on the following factors:
- Quantity of fossil fuel a renewable biomass system is replacing
- Percentage reduction in fossil fuel used by the biorefinery
- Cost effectiveness of the renewable biomass system
- Economic benefit to the community
- Potential to improve the quality of life in rural America
The number of payments will vary and be based on the number of applicants and availability of funds but will not exceed $5 million or 50% of total eligible product costs. Applications are due by November 1, 2009.
U.S. Dept of Labor announced five grant competitions this week, totaling US $500 million, to fund projects out of Recovery funds that prepare workers for green jobs in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. Four of the competitions are designed to serve workers in need of training through various national, state and community outlets. These include Energy Training Partnership Grants, Pathways Out of Poverty Grants, State Energy Sector Partnership and Green Capacity Building Grants. The fifth competition, for State Labor Market Information Improvement Grants, will fund state workforce agencies that will collect, analyze and disseminate labor market information and develop labor exchange infrastructure to direct individuals to careers in green industries. See: link to DOL page: http://www.doleta.gov/grants/find_grants.cfm
In general, parties that are considering applying for Stimulus Act funding for their project must preregister at the following websites:
- Applicants must obtain a Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System number (DUNS)
DUNS website: http://www.dnb.com/US/duns_update/
- Applicants must register with the Central Contractor Registration (CCR)
CCR website: http://www.ccr.gov/
- Applicants must register with FedConnect to submit their application.
FedConnect website: www.fedconnect.net
Numerous parties have reported that these websites may take several days to process registration requests. As such, I recommend that you register immediately if you are considering federal funding as a component of your project.
If you have trouble completing your registration in time for an application deadline, please use the following phone numbers to inquire about your registration status:
- DUNS Customer Assistance: 1-800-234-3867
- CCR Assistance Center: 1-888-227-2423
- FedConnect Support: 1-800-899-6665
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, provides over $2.7 billion in formula-based grants to states, U.S. territories, units of local government, and Indian tribes under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program.
The purpose of the EECBG Program is to assist eligible entities in creating and implementing strategies to:
- reduce fossil fuel emissions in a manner that is environmentally sustainable and, to the maximum extent practicable, maximizes benefits for local and regional communities;
- reduce the total energy use of the eligible entities; and
- improve energy efficiency in the building sector, the transportation sector, and other appropriate sectors.
The funding opportunity announcement (FOA) related to the EECBG has been recently amended. Originally, all applications had to be submitted through the FedConnect website, www.fedconnect.net. The most recent announcement to the FOA allows for applications to be submitted via email to email@example.com with the subject line "EECBG Application (Unique Identification Code)."
On June 16, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") issued a request for applications ("RFA") for its Climate Showcase Communities Grant Program. The RFA provides $10 million for programs to help lower green house gas ("GHG") emissions through energy and resource management.
Eligible activities are those that reduce GHG emissions in the following priority areas:
- Use or supply of green power products, on-site renewables, and other clean energy supply options;
- Energy performance in municipal operations (including municipal energy, water, and waste-water utilities);
- Energy performance in residential, commercial, agricultural, aqua-culture, and/or industrial buildings;
- Land use, transportation, or community master planning;
- Reduction of vehicle miles traveled;
- Solid waste management;
- Agricultural, aqua-cultural, and natural resource management;
- Heat island management;
- Removal of barriers for greenhouse gas management, through the development of effective programs, policies, or outreach; or
- Other innovative activities which generate measurable reductions of greenhouse gases
The EPA expects to award up to 30 cooperative agreements. Individual awards can be as high as $500,000, but most awards will range in value from $300,000 to $500,000. Eligible entities include local governments, Indian tribes, and intertribal consortiums.
Applicants must submit an informal notice of Intent to Apply by July 1, 2009 and full applications are due July 22, 2009 at 4:00 p.m. EDT.
The USDA announced today that it is accepting applications under the Rural Energy for America Program (“REAP”). REAP provides grants and loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase renewable energy systems, make energy efficiency improvements and conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy systems.
REAP funds are available in the following amounts:
- Grants for energy efficiency projects are available for up to the lesser of $250,000 or 25% of the project costs.
- Grants for renewable energy systems are available for up to the lesser of $500,000 or 25% of the project costs.
- Grants for feasibility studies for renewable energy systems are available for up to the lesser of $50,000 or 50% of the costs of the study.
- Loan guarantees are available for up to the lesser of $25 million or 75% of the project costs.
Applicants must be agricultural producers or rural small businesses. Agricultural producers are farmers or ranchers that obtain more than half of their gross income from agricultural operations. Small rural businesses are small businesses, as determined in accordance with the Small Business Administration's small business size standards, located in rural areas. Applications are due July 31, 2009.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has announced that it will be providing $300,000 in grants to qualified applicants to use for the addition of infrastructure that would allow for the blending of biodiesel in all types of weather, including cold conditions. Facilities must offer biodiesel for a minimum of five years, contingent upon the availability of diesel or biodiesel fuel. The Grantee must notify the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in writing in the event that diesel or biodiesel fuel is not readily available. Complete information is available on the Department's website.
The deadline for submitting applications is December 12, 2008.