A crucial and often overlooked element of combatting climate change and deploying clean energy is ensuring that our electric grid is ready to add new power sources. With the growing threat of extreme climate events, it is also increasingly critical to ensure that the grid is resilient—or hardy enough to withstand such events. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), more than 70% of U.S. transmission lines and transformers are over 25 years old, and independent estimates indicate that we may need to triple transmission capacity by 2050.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) contained more than $30 billion in funding to improve and modernize the grid, including $2.3B recently made available to states for strengthening grid resiliency. In January, President Biden also launched the Building a Better Grid Initiative, which is meant to catalyze the development of new and upgraded transmission through new programs funded by BIL as well as existing programs.
What programs are currently open for applications?
Preventing Outages and Enhancing the Resilience of the Electric Grid is a $5B program designed to strengthen and modernize America’s power grid against wildfires, extreme weather, and other natural disasters that are intensified by climate change. Half of this funding will go toward direct grant matching with industry (yet to be announced) and half will be allocated through formula grants providing $2.3B over the next five years to states, Tribal governments, and territories. This program was recently opened to applications. Explore the annual funding breakdown by state here.
What other kinds of funding are included?
There are a number of programs focused on grid modernization. Some of the main ones include:
- Program Upgrading Our Electric Grid and Ensuring Reliability and Resiliency – a $5B initiative that offers competitive financial assistance to state, Tribal, and local governments to support innovative approaches to hardening and enhancing transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure
- Energy Improvement in Rural and Remote Areas – a $1B competitive grant program within the new that helps rural areas increase the resilience, reliability, and safety of energy generation
- Deployment of Technologies to Enhance Grid Flexibility – a $3B expansion of the Smart Grid Investment Matching Grant (SGIG) Program that provides matching grants for the deployment of advanced grid technologies that allow buildings to engage in demand flexibility or Smart Grid functions
- Transmission Facilitation Program (TFP) – a $2.5B revolving fund to roll out large-scale new transmission lines, upgrade existing transmission, and support the connection of microgrids across the US (DOE will serve as an “anchor customer” for up to 50% capacity of new transmission lines. Once a project becomes financially viable, this capacity can be sold and resources returned into the revolving fund for future projects.)
- Rural And Municipal Utility Advances Cybersecurity Grant and Technical Assistance Program – a $250M grant and technical assistance program to protect against, detect, respond to, and recover from cybersecurity threats
A Notice of Intent was released in January 2022 that includes details on many of the above listed programs, as well as an outline of plans for the Building a Better Grid Initiative.
How else does BIL help enhance the grid?
One of the major policy changes that BIL makes is the clarification of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)’s authority on siting decisions for transmission lines that are considered of national interest. This allows FERC to authorize permits for interstate lines and make decisions on state siting for lines relevant to national interstate transmission corridors.
The new Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations will also support a number of demonstrations projects focused on grid-scale energy storage, carbon capture, small modular reactors, and more. This and other existing DOE programs like the Loan Programs Office will help in deploying large-scale energy infrastructure projects around the country.
How can I get involved?
Earlier this year the DOE also launched a new BIL-funded partnership program called the Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange (i2X). This program will bring together grid operators, utilities, state and Tribal governments, clean energy developers, energy justice organizations, and other stakeholders to collaboratively solve the challenges to connecting more clean energy to the power grid. You can join i2X right now and use the online platform to participate in working groups, connect with experts, access resources, provide feedback on materials developed through i2X, and take advantage of technical assistance opportunities.
As always, understanding what opportunities exist means you can get involved and bring those benefits back to your community or business. Look for partner opportunities, check with your state or local government to see how it will take advantage of the new funding opportunities, and keep your eyes peeled for more announcements and ways to modernize the grid in your community!
Want to know more about BIL? Explore additional entries to the Breaking Down the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law series to discover new programs created by this $1.2T investment.