WASHINGTON DC- Rural America is a crucial part of the country’s energy sector and energy infrastructure. Rural communities not only produce key energy inputs, but can also benefit from the economic growth and development that investments in energy infrastructure unlock. Leveraging billions of dollars from President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the efforts of existing agencies, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is committed to making transformative investments in rural energy infrastructure for transportation. and new mobility strategies, the production and use of energy and enhanced cybersecurity. DOE’s rural programs include work done through the Office of Indian Energy, with a focus on tribal lands, which overlaps significantly with rural lands, and the Interagency Coal and Gas Communities Task Force. Power Plants and Economic Revitalization, co-chaired by Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.
READ the Complete White House Rural Playbook.
READ the full DOE Rural Opportunity Fact Sheet. Here are some highlights:
Investing in rural transport
- Electric vehicles – The bipartisan Infrastructure Act created the Joint Energy and Transportation Office, which will provide technical assistance to support the efficient and equitable deployment of electric vehicle charging and other related programs. This office will be a key resource for local communities. For more information, visit driveelectric.gov.
- DOT Rural Electric Mobility Infrastructure Toolkit (with technical support from DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Vehicle Technologies Office) – The Department of Transport has released an online toolkit that provides a free, one-stop resource to help rural stakeholders define, plan and finance electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The toolkit includes technical resources from the DOE Vehicle Technologies Office on electric vehicle basics, considerations for developing electric vehicle infrastructure, connecting with local Clean Cities coalitions to facilitate infrastructure deployment and the location of existing electric vehicle infrastructure. The toolkit is currently available at www.transportation.gov/rural/ev/toolkit.
- DOE Vehicle Technology Office, New Mobility Services in Rural America – Through projects awarded under the ongoing Vehicle Technology Office (VTO) funding opportunities, the VTO Technology Integration Program is working with several rural communities across the country to conduct pilot demonstrations of new mobility technologies, such as electric vehicles for car sharing and microtransit from the first to the last mile. These projects expand transport choices for rural areas to provide affordable and efficient access to these services with solutions tailored to local needs. Ongoing projects for these rural and underserved communities provide car-sharing services with electric vehicles, demonstrations of electric shuttles and low-speed microtransit that serves local destinations as well as connecting the community to transportation services by common to a nearby urban center. The Vehicle Technology office is located in our Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office; funding opportunities and timelines are listed on eere-Exchange.energy.gov.
Supporting Rural Energy, Environments and Climates
- Grants and Advanced Technical Assistance Program for Rural and Municipal Utilities in Cybersecurity – In mobilizing $250 million in bipartisan Infrastructure Act funding for this provision, the DOE, in coordination with the Secretary of DHS, FERC, NERC, and the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council ( ESCC), will create a new DOE Rural and Municipal Utilities Advanced Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance Program to help eligible entities protect against, respond to, and recover from cyber threats. The goal of the program is to deploy cyber technologies for electric utility systems, prioritizing critical facilities, and to increase participation in cyber threat information sharing programs. DOE is requesting a waiver or reduction in cost sharing as this is a technical assistance effort.
- Infrastructure planning for micro and small modular nuclear reactors – The bipartisan Infrastructure Act authorizes assistance with feasibility studies for the siting of advanced reactors with the aim of identifying suitable locations for the deployment of micro-reactors, small modular reactors and advanced nuclear reactors in isolated communities.
- Energy Improvement in Rural and Remote Areas – Administered by the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, the bipartisan Infrastructure Act provides $1 billion to conduct activities to improve energy resiliency, security, reliability and availability and protect the environment from the adverse effects of energy production in rural and remote communities with populations of 10,000 or less. Eligible projects may include: (A) overall cost-effectiveness of energy generation, transmission or distribution systems; (B) siting or upgrading transmission and distribution lines; (C) reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power generation in rural or remote areas; (D) provide or upgrade power generation facilities; (E) develop micro-grids; and (F) increasing energy efficiency. The DOE plans to emphasize network reliability and resilience for funding, and will be engaging stakeholders over the coming months to inform the program structure.
- Funding for clean energy manufacturing and workforce development – Bipartisan Infrastructure Act investments in clean energy technology supply chains for technologies such as batteries will enable America to manufacture the energy technologies of the future right here at home, strengthening our competitiveness on a global clean energy market expected to reach $23 trillion by the end of the decade. These investments will create good jobs up and down the supply chain, especially manufacturing jobs and relevant skills opportunities for fossil fuel workers. Funding from the Department of Energy will primarily go to clean energy manufacturing facilities across the country. These funds include a $750 million program specifically focused on census tracts with closed mines and coal mills, which have significant overlap with rural and remote communities.
Existing DOE programs to support rural communities
- Community-wide resource and energy recovery program from organic waste – The DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Bioenergy Technologies, will offer several awards totaling up to $5 million in non-BIL funds to support the development of community-centered solutions, energy management plans, and more. business and experimental demonstrations for the recovery of resources and energy from common organic wastes, such as food waste, municipal sewage sludge, animal manure and fats, oils and greases. To ensure community involvement that can extend beyond the life of the projects, only community-led or associated organizations are eligible to be primary beneficiaries of selected projects. The RFP will be posted on the EERE Exchange at eere-Exchange.energy.gov.
- Wind Innovations for Rural Economic Development (WIRED) – The EERE-Wind Energy Technologies Office’s Wind Innovations for Rural Economic Development (WIRED) initiative awarded $6 million in fiscal year 2020 to support rural electric utilities and the communities they serve serve by 1) assessing the benefits and opportunities of distributed wind (DW) on their networks, 2) reducing technical risks, 3) identifying and addressing knowledge and resource needs to facilitate DW adoption. WETO plans to build on these efforts in FY22 by making available up to $4 million to further de-risk DW adoption in rural communities. Successful project teams will identify replicable DW solutions, inform permitting and interconnection processes, and develop ownership and business models that maximize economic and local power system benefits. Work will include networking, research, development and design of pilot (or user demonstration) projects that are widely applicable and replicable.
- Bureau of Indian Energy Policy and Programs – The Office of Indian Energy uses a three-pronged approach to support 574 federally recognized tribes, more than 200 Alaska Native Village Corporations, and 13 Alaska Native Regional Corporations, harnessing their vast undeveloped resources through: 1) assistance financial; 2), technical support; and 3) education and capacity building. Since 2010, the Office of Indian Energy has invested over $114 million in more than 200 tribal energy projects. Current and ongoing funding opportunities are available on the Office of Indian Energy website.