United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
12/11/17 Midnight EST Electronic Receipt or Postmarked by Date
Grants to USA and territories nonprofits, for-profits, government agencies, and individuals to reduce energy costs for rural households that currently pay 275% of the national average or higher. Applicants are advised to complete the required registrations well in advance of the deadline date. Funding may be used to construct, acquire, upgrade, extend, or otherwise enhance energy transmission, distribution, or generation facilities serving eligible communities.
Grants may also be used for programs that install on-grid and off-grid renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements in eligible communities. Grant awards are not made directly to individuals or for projects that primarily benefit a single household or business.
This program was established in 2000 to provide assistance for communities most challenged by extremely high energy costs, defined by statute as average residential home energy expenditures that are 275 percent or more of the national average. This statutory threshold for eligibility is high and has the result of limiting the availability of this program to extremely high cost and typically remote areas. RUS periodically establishes eligibility benchmarks using the most recent home energy data published by the Energy Information Administration.
The purpose of this program is to provide financial assistance for a broad range of energy facilities, equipment and related activities to offset the impact of extremely high home energy costs on eligible communities. The grants help communities provide basic energy needs by financing energy infrastructure supporting rural prosperity and job creation. Grant funds may not be used to pay utility bills or to purchase fuel. Nor may grant funds be used for education and outreach except for training that is directly related to energy facilities financed in all or part by this program. Upgrades to existing facilities are also eligible. Grant projects under this program must serve an eligible community and not be for the primary benefit of an individual applicant, household, or business.
Priorities Under the authority of 7 CFR 1709.102(b) and 1709.123, this notice establishes several priority scoring criteria to support USDA and RUS policy objectives. Additional points will be awarded for:
-Projects that provide assistance to USDA High Poverty Areas;
-Projects that serve small rural communities;
-Projects that incorporate commercially proven waste heat recovery technology;
-Projects that result in not less than a 25% increase in energy efficiency for generation assets, this includes repowering aging diesel plant;
-Projects that address extraordinary circumstances affecting the eligible high energy cost community such as a disaster, imminent hazard, unserved areas, and other economic hardship; and
-Projects that serve Substantially Underserved Trust Areas.
Eligible projects must serve an eligible community and must include only eligible grant purposes. The project must serve communities that meet the extremely high energy cost eligibility requirements described in this notice. The applicant must demonstrate that the proposed project will benefit the eligible communities. Projects that primarily benefit a single household or business are not eligible.
Grant funds may be used to acquire, construct, extend, upgrade, or otherwise improve energy generation, transmission, or distribution facilities serving eligible communities. All energy generation, transmission, and distribution facilities and equipment, used to provide electricity, natural gas, home heating fuels, and other energy service to eligible communities are eligible. Projects providing or improving energy services to eligible communities through on-grid and off-grid renewable energy projects, energy efficiency, and energy conservation projects are eligible. A grant project is eligible if it improves, or maintains energy services, or reduces the costs of providing energy services to eligible communities.
Funds may cover up to the full costs of any eligible projects subject to the statutory limitation that no more than 4 percent of grant funds may be used for the planning and administrative expenses of the grantee. Because of this limitation, applicants must detail any indirect costs.
The program regulations at 7 CFR part 1709 provide more detail on the allowable use of grant funds, limitations on grant funds, and ineligible grant purposes. Grant funds may not be used to refinance or repay the applicant's outstanding loans or loan guarantees under the RE Act.
In general, grant funds may not be used to support projects that primarily benefit areas outside of eligible communities. However, grant funds may be used to finance an eligible community's proportionate share of a larger energy project.
Consistent with USDA policy and program regulations, grant funds awarded under this program generally cannot be used to replace other USDA assistance or to refinance or repay outstanding loans under the RE Act. Grant funds may, however, be used in Start Printed Page 47452combination with other USDA assistance programs including electric loans. Grants may be applied toward grantee contributions under other USDA programs depending on the specific terms of those programs. For example, an applicant may propose to use grant funds to offset the costs of electric system improvements in extremely high cost areas by increasing the utility's contribution for line extensions or system expansions to its distribution system financed in whole or part by an electric loan under the RE Act. An applicant may propose to finance a portion of an energy project for an extremely high energy cost community through this grant program and secure the remaining project costs through a loan or loan guarantee from RUS or other grant sources. The determination of whether a project will be completed in this manner will be made solely by the Administrator.
Grant funds under this program may only be used for projects using proven and commercially available technology. Activities or equipment that would commonly be considered as research, development, or demonstration, or commercialization activities are not eligible. RUS, in its sole discretion, will determine if a project consists of ineligible research, development, demonstration, or commercialization activities or relies on unproven technology, and that determination shall be final.
GrantWatch ID#: 164556
Expected Number of Awards: 10
The maximum amount of grant assistance that may be requested or awarded for a grant application under this notice is $3,000,000. The minimum amount of assistance for a grant application under this program is $100,000.
RUS Electric Program Staff:
Robin Meigel, Finance Specialist
Rural Utilities Service, Electric Programs
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW., STOP 1568
Room 0270, South Building
Washington, DC 20250-1568
P: (202) 720-9542
F: (202) 690-7442
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