Smart energy is going to school, literally.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a major funding opportunity in October for clean energy improvements at elementary school campus facilities throughout the country.
The $80 million program, made possible by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will offer grants to fund energy and health improvements in public K-12 schools. Electrical contractors working in education projects will likely find multiple work opportunities with the funded proposals.
Applicants will be considered in two topic areas. The first area will consider proposals for projects with high-impact energy-efficiency and health improvements. These will include improvements that result in direct reduction to school energy costs, increase energy-efficiency and lead to improvements in teacher and student health, such as indoor air quality. Improvements may take the form of repairs, renovations or installations to the facility envelope and systems such as air conditioning, ventilation, heating, domestic hot water heating, compressed air, distribution, lighting and power or building controls.
The second topic area will consider innovative energy technology packages. A project would be eligible for consideration if it incorporates one or more of several energy improvements, such as energy-efficiency measures, installation of renewable energy technologies, infrastructure on school grounds for alternative fuel vehicles and purchase or lease of alternative fuel vehicles to be used by a school.
The DOE notes that energy consumption is the second-highest operational expense schools face, often requiring schools to invest in energy-related costs rather than other critical educational needs for students. It cites the 2021 American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which rates the nation’s school facilities in D+ condition, as well as a June 2020 GAO report, which found that about half of the nation's public school districts are struggling to upgrade and maintain building systems that ensure facilities are free of health hazards.
The grant aims to address these deficiencies by helping to lower utility costs, improve indoor air quality and reduce carbon emissions in schools across the country with a focus on rural and high-poverty school districts. It represents the first tranche of the Renew America’s Schools grant program created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will provide a total of $500 million in grants for energy improvements at public schools through fiscal years 2022-2026.