The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) unveiled a groundbreaking initiative today, earmarking a substantial $25 million through the Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) partnerships program. This ambitious funding aims to bolster the efforts of six community teams dedicated to crafting bespoke decarbonization strategies and clean energy solutions. Collaboratively, local governments, electric utilities, and community-based organizations, in close conjunction with experts from DOE’s esteemed national laboratories, will harness $8 million in award funding, coupled with an additional $17 million in technical assistance. Their mission is to research, model, and implement clean energy systems that are not only reliable and affordable but also equitable and closely aligned with the unique priorities of their respective communities.
By facilitating the development of customized clean energy solutions, today’s announcement underscores the unwavering commitment of the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure that the transition to a clean energy future benefits all communities, regardless of their location. This initiative also plays a pivotal role in advancing President Biden’s ambitious climate goals.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm emphasized, “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring the benefits of our clean energy future reach every American—whether they’re in urban centers or America’s rural heartland. By connecting communities with innovative tools and know-how from our world-renowned national laboratories, DOE is laying the foundation for the partnerships needed to help transform local clean energy goals and ambitions into reality.”
The C2C program offers comprehensive technical partnerships that foster collaboration with national laboratory experts. These partnerships empower communities to make informed decisions about their energy needs and address critical challenges in renewable energy, mobility, grid management, and building sustainability, thereby mitigating risks associated with clean energy deployment.
Selected Community Teams and Projects:
1. Chicago, IL: The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Commonwealth Edison, and Respiratory Health Association have joined forces to refine tools and analyses aimed at achieving net-zero transportation emissions by 2050. These enhanced tools will provide the region with valuable insights into the opportunities and challenges presented by low-carbon transportation technologies, including electrification of passenger and freight travel and energy-efficient mobility options. They will also assess cross-sectoral interactions with the grid.
2. Colorado Springs, CO: The City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities, Energy Resource Center, the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs, and Careers in Construction Colorado are collaborating to validate concepts that aggregate power across complex energy systems, including virtual power plants. This initiative will support the deployment of significant quantities of solar energy, grid-connected buildings, electric vehicles (EVs), and other distributed resources.
3. Delaware Valley, PA, and NJ: The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Philadelphia Electric Company, Bucks County Opportunity Council, Community Action Agency of Delaware County, and the Community Action Development Commission of Montgomery County are on a mission to identify the most impactful clean energy solutions for the Delaware Valley region. Their goal is to create a Regional Clean Energy Activation Hub, streamlining procurement for identified technologies across more than 200 municipalities.
4. Moloka‘i, HI: The Hawaiʻi State Energy Office, Hawaiian Electric, Hoʻāhu Energy Cooperative Molokai, Moloka‘i Clean Energy Hui, and Shake Energy Collaborative are working together to develop and validate a portfolio of renewable energy generation projects capable of meeting 100% of Molokaʻi’s electricity needs while upholding community values.
5. Pittsburgh, PA: The City of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, Duquesne Light Company, and the Green Building Alliance are planning to deploy Smart Electric Energy Districts as part of a comprehensive approach to achieving a clean and affordable electricity system. These districts incorporate ‘smart’ energy infrastructure, including rooftop solar, appliances, buildings, energy storage, and EV chargers, and can collaboratively meet both grid and community needs throughout the city and surrounding areas.
6. Sitka, AK: The City and Borough of Sitka, City and Borough of Sitka Electric Department, Renewable Energy Alaska Project, and Mt. Edgecumbe High School are optimizing existing hydropower generation and planned solar, wind, and storage projects. They will also explore the potential of using clean energy to produce ammonia, aiming to lower energy costs and emissions for local families and businesses.
The C2C program previously formed a successful pilot partnership with Fairbanks, Alaska, assisting local leaders and the area’s electric utility in identifying innovative ways to expand clean energy generation and utilization while ensuring reliability ahead of a planned coal plant closure. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) received a prestigious R&D 100 award for developing a simulation and emulation platform used in implementing the pilot project.
Near-Term Clean Energy Solutions for Communities:
In addition to the substantial funding announcement, DOE revealed its support for over 50 communities in 25 states and Puerto Rico through C2C’s expert match program. This program provides between 40 and 60 hours of customized technical assistance, aiding communities and local leaders in addressing immediate energy challenges.
Previous collaborations under this program included partnering with the Black Farmers’ Collaborative to plan solar panels for Florida farms and churches and assisting Cohoes, NY in constructing the nation’s first municipally owned floating solar system, alongside evaluating plans to retrofit historic buildings.
Collaborative Peer Learning Opportunities to Advance Clean Energy Strategies:
DOE also disclosed the forthcoming topics for C2C’s peer-learning cohorts. These cohorts will convene approximately 10-15 communities over six months to exchange strategies and best practices while learning from one another and national laboratory experts. Topics for these cohorts include:
- Evaluating and Prioritizing Municipal Buildings for Energy Efficiency and Decarbonization Investment.
- Enhancing Resilience at Critical Municipal Facilities Through Solar, Storage, and Microgrids.
- Designing Engagement to Shape Community-Wide Transportation Electrification.
The Clean Energy to Communities program stands as a beacon of hope, providing communities with the expertise and tools needed to realize their clean energy goals. C2C is funded by DOE and managed by NREL, with additional support from Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.