With the new elective pay energy tax incentives and significant new federal grants and loans, it is an exciting time for public power utilities seeking to build new generation or improve the resilience and reliability of their systems.
These exciting opportunities, however, are not without challenges. From identifying the right opportunities for your utility to navigating the application process and requirements that come with federal dollars, pursuing federal funding can be overwhelming and frustrating, particularly for smaller public power utilities or those who have never sought federal funding before.
Thankfully, many options exist for public power utilities to partner, whether on grant applications or federally funded projects. Partnering can reduce the challenges associated with seeking federal funding and increase the chances of successful applications.
Over half of the infrastructure dollars included in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will go directly to the states to be dispersed to eligible entities. Whether it is the millions of dollars that have already flowed to states to build out electric vehicle charging stations through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program, or the $580.5 million that has gone to states, tribes, and territories under the Grid Resilience State and Tribal Formula Grant program, there are many opportunities to leverage from your state.
Reach out to your governor’s office, state energy office, or state transportation office to see what opportunities there are for your utility to partner with your state on federally funded projects. While states are already receiving federal funding, many of the IIJA programs are multi-year, so states are both issuing sub-grants right now and planning for future funding opportunities.
Public power is no stranger to working together. From storm recovery to state and federal advocacy, we know that we are stronger when we work together. The same mindset can be helpful when approaching federal funding opportunities.
Now is the time to think about how your utility could leverage federal or state dollars, particularly if there are opportunities for you to partner on your project or application with other utilities in your state or region. Beyond working with other local utilities, consider if you could partner with other public power utilities from around the country that are hoping to implement similar solutions to resilience or cybersecurity challenges. From community groups and listservs to in-person and virtual events, the American Public Power Association can help you facilitate the conversations that will lead to effective partnerships.
Most, if not all, federal funding opportunities will require a major purchase — whether software or hardware — designed to make your system smarter, more secure, more reliable, or more resilient. That means it is not only in your best interest, but also in the best interest of your trusted vendors and partners, for your federal funding applications to succeed.
APPA has two options to help you partner with vendors. First, a great place to start your search is the Public Power Suppliers Guide, where you can look for vendors that offer grant services, from grant writing and management to the technology solutions needed to fulfill grant objectives. Second, APPA members can make requests directly of APPA’s corporate members through the “Federal Funding Assistance Request Form,” which is a great way to share your utility’s specific needs and receive responses from interested and available vendors.
Many companies are creating resources or offering assistance to help their clients succeed in securing federal funding. You should inquire about how a potential project partner can assist you, from project templates to grant writing tips and tricks. Don’t forget that vendor partners can also be a way to build utility partnerships and multiple utilities working with one grant writer or technology provider could reduce their individual cost and create a single grant application with wide-ranging benefits to multiple communities — a win-win for the grantees and the grantors!
However you decide to approach the federal funding opportunities available to public power, APPA is here to help. Members can visit our Federal Funding Opportunities page to view a compilation of resources and information to help utilities seeking to leverage federal funding opportunities to build more resilient, reliable, and secure communities.