US DOE Opens Application Process for $65M in Connected Communities Funding

Oct. 15, 2020
The DOE is now accepting applications for $65 million in Connected Communities funding, which supports projects that show how groups of buildings combined with DERs, including microgrids, can act as grid resources.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is now accepting applications for $65 million in Connected Communities funding, which support projects that show how groups of buildings combined with distributed energy resources, including microgrids, can act as grid resources.

The DOE plans to select a portfolio of grid‐interactive efficient building (GEB) projects in various climates, geographies and building types as well as of different building ages, distributed resources and utility/grid/regulatory structures, according to a description of the Connected Communities funding opportunity.

“By demonstrating the ability of groups of buildings and distributed energy resources (DER) to modify load, the [funding] outcomes will enable increased energy efficiency, reduced energy demand, and reduced environmental impacts,” the DOE said.

The DOE expects the projects to help spur market innovation that will increase demand flexibility and energy efficiency.

The department said it intends to select a diverse mix of individual projects so the combined insights from the whole portfolio will provide scalable solutions that can be applied across the country.

Eligible DERs include microgrids, photovoltaics, energy storage, wind, combined heat and power, demand response, energy efficiency and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

The initiative comes amid a rise in DERs, gains in smart controls and an expansion in electric vehicles, according to the DOE.

“This [funding opportunity] recognizes the challenges and opportunities that relate to this changing energy landscape and addresses the role that demand side strategies, including buildings, electric vehicles with smart charge management and other DERs as well as supply side strategies, can offer,” the department said.

DOE sees potential for GEBs

The potential for GEBs is large. The United States has 125 million homes and commercial buildings, which use almost 40% of US energy, three-quarters of its electricity, and account for most of peak electricity demand, according to the DOE.

The DOE’s Building Technologies Office has a GEB strategy that aims to integrate and optimize DERs for the benefit of the buildings’ owners, occupants and the electric grid. 

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Connected communities can take advantage of new technology like state-of-the-art sensors, controls and analytics to more flexibly manage and deploy grid-scale energy efficiency and distributed energy resources, the department said.

Eligibility for Connected Communities

Groups of buildings that could participate in the project include homes; university, medical or corporate campuses; downtown districts with commercial and/or mixed use buildings; mixed use developments or neighborhoods; non‐contiguous buildings within a utility or energy service territory; U.S. national defense or security installations; and industrial parks, according to DOE.

Example of a grid‐interactive efficient building (GEB). Credit: US DOE

The DOE expects, but doesn’t require, proposals will come from partnerships between utilities and power providers, building/home developers, owners and operators, manufacturers and researchers.

The DOE is holding a webinar on the funding opportunity (DE‐FOA‐0002206) on Nov. 10, with concept papers due from interested parties due Feb. 17 and applications due March 3. 

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Ethan Howland

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