A proposal by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, along with regional public power utility and electric cooperative partners, for over $240 million in federal energy funds has received the U.S. Department of Energy nod of approval to move forward with a full application.
The funds would come from the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships program if the DOE approves the final application, which was submitted May 19. The DOE is expected to announce awards later in 2023.
The grid improvement proposal combines almost 300 projects involving small-scale utilities -- rural cooperative, municipal owned, generation and transmission utilities -- that would face significant challenges as individual projects to pursue federal funds, the Minnesota Commerce Department said on May 25.
The projects would serve communities with factors DOE defines as disadvantaged communities, such as being low income, rural, tribal, and geographically remote.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Resource Division staff has provided staff resources and time, as well as expertise in grant writing and technical assistance needed by the small utilities, to develop the consolidated proposal.
Costs per project range between $360,000 to $54 million, with each project expected to ask for DOE federal funding to cover half the project costs. Combined, the projects would total more than $480 million. State funding may also be available to help some of the small utility projects through the State Competitiveness Fund, which passed the Minnesota Legislature in April 2023.
The DOE joint proposal is a consortium, with the Minnesota Department of Commerce as lead state agency, along with multiple regional cooperatives (co-ops) and municipal utilities, and utility industry associations:
- The Minnesota Rural Electric Association
- The Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association
- The North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives
- The South Dakota Rural Electric Association
- Rural Cooperative, Municipal, and Generation and Transmission utilities in Iowa
Projects proposed range from transmission system upgrades, infrastructure and tools to increase electricity generated by renewable energy, and innovative battery storage systems.
“The money allocated by GRIP would help consumer-owned electric utilities to implement innovative technologies to improve the grid in Minnesota and the region,” said Darrick Moe, CEO of MREA. Karleen Kos, CEO of MMUA, added, “We appreciate the collaboration of everyone on this proposal and the work of the Department of Commerce to get this done.”
A key component of the joint proposal is to ensure disadvantaged communities in the region would benefit from the energy infrastructure investments.
The Justice40 Initiative, a stated federal government goal that at least 40% of the project benefits accrue to disadvantaged communities, is a component of GRIP funding. Justice40, and its foundation of equity in energy resources, is supported by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.