US House Bill Offers $1.5 Billion in Clean Energy Microgrid Grants

Oct. 22, 2020
The House bill aims to help fund clean energy microgrids for critical infrastructure, with a focus on low-income communities and communities of color.

A new federal program would offer $1.5 billion in grants for clean energy microgrids under a bill introduced in the House of Representatives.

The bill aims to help fund clean energy microgrids for critical infrastructure, with a focus on low-income communities and communities of color.

The Energy Resilient Communities Act is designed to help combat power outages and rolling blackouts, reduce pollution, create green energy jobs and fight climate change, according to the bill’s Democratic sponsors Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán from California and Yvette Clarke from New York.

“From Superstorm Sandy to summer heat waves, Brooklynites are all too familiar with the impacts of extreme weather on our communities and critical infrastructure,” Clarke said Oct. 20. “And as our nation grapples with record fires out West, and a record hurricane season down South, we know that resilience and equity must be top of mind in all our efforts to build a better and cleaner future.”

Last year, 546 microgrids were installed in the United States. About 86% of them were at least partly powered by fossil-fueled generators, according to the lawmakers.

Ranking clean energy microgrids

The bill would authorize $1.5 billion in annual grants for clean energy microgrids to support the critical infrastructure needed in the aftermath of an extreme weather event. It also offers $50 million for technical assistance.

The legislation reserves at least $150 million of annual funding for grants supporting community-owned energy systems.

State and local governments, territories, tribal agencies, utilities and non-profit organizations could apply for grants, with a priority given to environmental justice communities.

Other factors that affect the ranking of planned microgrid projects include how effectively they reduce pollution and improve public health, whether they are built on previously used land, whether they support women- and minority-owned businesses and whether the proposed project will be a community-owned energy system.

The grants would support up to 60% of a project’s cost. If the project is in an environmental justice commune, the grant could cover up to 90% of the cost.

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Eligible critical infrastructure

Eligible critical infrastructure includes hospitals, grocery stores, community centers, public safety facilities, water systems, public or affordable housing, medical baseline customers and senior housing.

The bill, which 22 co-sponsors, includes “buy American” provisions and worker hiring targets to support local and economically disadvantaged workers.

Fate of House bill

The fate of the bill likely depends on the November 3 elections. Democrats control the House but Republicans have a majority in the Senate. A Joe Biden victory for president and a shift in control of the Senate would improve the legislation’s chances.

A major energy bill stalled earlier this year in the Senate over a dispute on limiting hydrofluorocarbons, an unrelated issue. 

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About the Author

Ethan Howland

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