Energy Improvement in Rural or Remote Areas

Wednesday, March 8, 2023 

Program Summary

Key information at a glance: 

Opportunity Title: Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Energy Improvement in Rural or Remote Areas
Opportunity Number: DE-FOA-0002970
Agency: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations
Total Program Funding: $300,000,000
Award Ceiling: $100,000,000
Cost Sharing: 20% - IHEs, nonprofits, and state, local, or tribal governments; 50% - All other applicants
Expected Number of Awards: 7 - 28
Deadline: 06/28/2023, 5 p.m. ET

Looking for assistance with your application? Click here to learn how CFS can help.  

Program Overview 

    On March 1, 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) announced a $300 million Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), The Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) Program. Created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the program provides $1 billion over 5 years to rural and remote communities providing financial investment, technical assistance, and other resources that will advance clean energy demonstrations and solutions.

    The ERA program aims to improve the cost, reliability, environmental impact, and resilience of rural and remote energy systems by funding projects with commercially viable or near-commercially viable technologies. Funded projects will "implement cost-effective clean energy technologies that promote the overall resilience of the local energy system against climate impacts, and support more diversified rural economies better able to weather economic shocks.” Ensuring replicability of proposed projects is a key aspect the Department is prioritizing; The establishment of projects that can be replicated allows the program to benefit rural and remote communities beyond the ERA program participants by ultimately increasing commercial accessibility.

    There are two topic areas included in this FOA: Community-Scale Demonstrations, and Large-Scale Demonstrations. Projects funded in either Topic Area must satisfy at least one of the "resilient clean energy objectives” listed in BIL Section 40103(c)(3): 1) Improving overall cost-effectiveness of energy generation, transmission, or distribution systems, 2) Siting or upgrading transmission and distribution lines, 3) Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from energy generation in rural or remote areas 4) Providing or modernizing electric generation facilities, 5) Developing microgrids, or 6) Increasing energy efficiency.


Topic Areas & Goals

Goals for all proposals are as follows: 

  • Deliver measurable benefits to energy customers in rural or remote areas by funding replicable energy projects that lower energy costs, improve energy access and resilience, and/or reduce environmental harm.

  • Demonstrate new rural or remote energy system models using climate-resilient technologies, business structures that promote economic resilience, new financing mechanisms, and/or new community engagement best practices.

  • Build clean energy knowledge, capacity, and self-reliance in rural America.


Topic areas and corresponding areas of interest are as follows:  

Topic Area 1: Community-Scale Demonstrations (4-8 awards)  

Topic Area 1 calls for proposals using one or more clean energy technologies that advance resilience and provide other benefits to one or more rural or remote communities. Topic Area 1 proposals must only use commercially available technologies, demonstrate the technology is commercially available, and identify a plan to procure the technology. Example proposals under this Topic Area include:  

  • microgrid designs and service models that enable cost-competitive deployment to a broad set of rural or remote communities;  

  • small hydropower systems providing community benefits;  

  • hybrid configurations of distributed energy resources that are operable during extreme weather events; and

  • demonstrating operation of existing technologies to new climates. 

Topic Area 2: Large-Scale Demonstrations (3-20 awards)  

Topic Area 2 calls for proposals that benefit multiple communities, either through a single installation that benefits multiple rural or remote communities, or through a series of installations with related characteristics across multiple communities. For multiple site proposals, the applicant must explain metrics to assess direct benefit to multiple communities. There are two areas of interest for this topic (proposals may address only one of the two AOIs).

Area of Interest 1: Aggregation 

Similar projects at multiple locations in a manner that leads to a demonstratable benefit relative to conducting that project at only one location.  Example proposals under this AOI include:  

  • an aggregation of solar and/or wind farms, with or without energy storage, in multiple locations that share a common administrative and support staff;

  • grid hardening and resilience efforts to multiple substations

Area of Interest 2: Single-Site Projects

Projects that involve a single installation site that can enable replication of a solution and/or benefit multiple rural or remote communities. Example proposals under this AOI include:

  • A utility-scale solar, wind farm and/or hydrogen or battery storage facility.

  • A bioreactor that uses locally available biomass to replace fossil fuel generation.

  • A renewables project that delivers significant additional benefits to a local community.

  • A transmission investment that reduces reliance on fossil fuels.

  • Clean energy generation in an area having had trouble attracting investment due to geographic isolation.


     Eligible applicants are domestic entities, including institutions of higher education, non-profits, for-profits, tribal nations, state and local governments, incorporated Consortia, and unincorporated Consortia. Proposals must identify and benefit at least one eligible area in the United States (including U.S. territories) with a population that does not exceed more than 10,000 inhabitants.

     The FOA has designated nine regions of interest: Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, South-Central, North Central, Southwest, Northwest, Alaska, and the Islands and Territories. Each region has varying energy and climate challenges that the Department is seeking to address. Applicants should first identify the Topic Area specific to their proposal then, the region(s) of interest that will benefit from the proposed project.

     Cost Sharing: Topic Area 1 solicits proposals to implement clean energy projects with a federal cost share of at least $5 million and at most $10 million. Topic Area 2 solicits proposals to implement clean energy projects with a federal cost share of at least $10 million and at most $100 million.


Key Dates

Informational Webinar: 03/29/2023, 1 p.m. ET 

Submission Deadline for Concept Papers: 04/14/2023, 5 p.m. ET 

Submission Deadline for Applications: 06/28/2023, 5 p.m. ET 


Upcoming Funding 

Notably, this FOA included plans for an announcement within 60 days in which the OCED will outline a “simplified approach,” for proposals requesting less than $5 million in upcoming federal funding. The purpose of this anticipated change is due to the OCED recognition that “many creative energy solutions happen at a smaller scale and do not require a complex application process.” 

   In addition to this FOA, OCED is offering a related prize competition, The Energizing Rural Communities Prize. The competition challenges individuals and organizations to develop partnership plans, innovative financing strategies, and the development of clean energy system proposals. 



View the Opportunity here.

Register for the Webinar here.

Read the Press release here.