State energy officials and clean energy businesses are urging the Department of Energy (DOE) to help coordinate efforts to bolster infrastructure resilience, including microgrid development.
“As recent events in Texas and the Midwest have shown once again, one of the most urgent tasks in the energy sector – production, distribution and end-use – is to increase its resilience in the face of climate-induced extreme weather events,” said the National Association of State Energy Officials, the National Emergency Management Association and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy in a letter to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm, released March 30.
The groups asked the DOE to coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support energy resilience investments, while providing technical assistance to states and tapping private sector know-how.
Groups focus on BRIC funding
The Disaster Recovery and Reform Act (DRRA), which became law in 2018, provides a “tremendous” opportunity to bolster infrastructure and community resilience, according to the groups.
In part, the act directed FEMA to strengthen its predisaster risk mitigation efforts through the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, known as BRIC.
After each Congressional special disaster appropriation, up to 6% of the funds can be allocated to the BRIC program, which all states can use on resilience projects in a range of areas, including energy.
BRIC funding will likely vary between $500 million and $3 billion a year depending on the number and severity of disasters each year, according to the groups, which are helping states and communities develop projects suitable for BRIC funding.
“We are focusing on such approaches as microgrids, mission critical facility energy efficiency, building energy codes, grid hardening and the utilization of on-site renewable power and storage,” the groups said.
Microgrids and community renewable grids should be developed to boost resilience and provide access to electricity during power outages, according to the groups.
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The first application period for funding from the BRIC grant program using new guidance closed in January. Every state and all US territories applied for funding, showing the significant level of demand for the federal partnership, the groups said.
Groups urge public-private partnership
The groups told Granholm a public-private partnership spearheaded by the DOE in coordination with FEMA and their members would speed up state efforts to build more resilient communities.
The groups urged the DOE to:
- Bring FEMA and other federal agencies together to help coordinate energy-related resilience actions
- Work with the three organizations to provide technical assistance to states as they develop applications or innovative public-private energy projects using BRIC funds
- Establish a cross-cutting DOE role, possibly in the DOE’s policy office, to make sure department “silos” are bridged and matched with state and private efforts
- Speed up the deployment of high-impact resilient energy technologies that are in the research stage
- Identify additional energy-focused resilience actions that the DOE and states could take as called for by the DRRA
- Work with the private sector on best practices related to projects and project application development experience, and tap into their work with local governments, tribes and states in this capacity.
The letter highlighted resilience case studies, including nine microgrid projects developed by Ameresco, Bloom Energy, United Illuminating, FuelCell Energy, Schneider Electric and Solar Turbines, a Caterpillar unit.