The Biden-Harris Administration through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a Request for Information seeking public input on the structure of an approximately $2.3 billion formula grant program to strengthen and modernize America’s power grid against wildfires, extreme weather, and other natural disasters exacerbated by the climate crisis. The new program, established by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and administered through DOE’s new Building a Better Grid Initiative, will assist States and Tribal nations with projects that create good-paying jobs to deliver clean, affordable, and reliable energy to everyone, everywhere, anytime. A reliable, resilient electric grid is critical for withstanding climate change impacts and to achieving President Biden’s goal of a national grid run on a 100% clean electricity by 2035.
Power outages from severe weather have doubled over the past two decades across the U.S. and the frequency and length of power failures reached their highest levels since reliability tracking began in 2013 — with U.S. customers on average experiencing more than eight hours of outages in 2020.
Infrastructure investments will help address these concerns by improving grid reliability and increasing resilience in the face of extreme weather events and natural disasters. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s program, Preventing Outages and Enhancing the Resilience of the Electric Grid, will provide grants based on a formula that includes, among other things, population size, land area, probability and severity of disruptive events, and a locality’s historical expenditures on mitigation efforts.
Grid modernization activities could include:
- Utility pole upkeep and removal of trees and other vegetation affecting grid performance
- Undergrounding electrical equipment
- Relocating or reconductoring powerlines
- Improvements to make the grid resistant to extreme weather
- Increasing fire resistant components
- Implementing monitoring, controls, and advanced modeling for real-time situational awareness
- Integrating distributed energy resources like microgrids and energy storage
The new program will ask applicants to describe the concrete outcomes they intend to seek and commit to specific progress metrics like reducing or shortening outages from severe events or by reducing risks to health and safety from such outages. Applicants will also be asked to present objectives and metrics for workforce engagement, high labor standards, and quality job creation. Furthermore, the program will award funding to a diverse set of populations, including underserved and disadvantaged communities, following through on the Biden Administration’s Justice40 commitment to provide 40% of the benefits from climate investments to frontline communities.
The Request for Information seeks feedback from States and Tribal Nations to inform DOE’s structuring of the formula grants. Specific feedback is requested about anticipated application challenges, technical assistance support, and other critical data sources.
The Building a Better Grid Initiative, also enabled by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is working to catalyze the nationwide development of new and upgraded electric transmission lines. Through the Building a Better Grid Initiative, DOE is deploying more than $20 billion in federal financing tools, including through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s new $2.5 billion Transmission Facilitation Program, $3 billion expansion of the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, and more than $10 billion in grants for States, Tribes, and utilities to enhance grid resilience and prevent power outages, and through existing tools, including the more than $3 billion Western Area Power Administration Transmission Infrastructure Program, and a number of loan guarantee programs through the Loan Programs Office.
DOE is requesting feedback on the formula grant program Notice of Intent, draft application and award requirements, and draft award formula allocation. Comments must be received by June 2, 2022 11:59 p.m. EDT and can be submitted by emailing [email protected].
A public webinar will be held on May 5, 2022, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. ET to provide additional information. Registration required.