Solar for All Notice of Funding Opportunity Update
On August 31, 2023, EPA released the list of Notices of Intent that EPA has received from states, territories, municipalities, and eligible nonprofit recipients, requesting over $38 billion in funding from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund’s $7 billion Solar for All competition. EPA will subsequently release the list of Tribal governments from whom EPA has received a Notice of Intent in the next couple of weeks.
The list of interested applicants for the Solar for All competition cover every state and territory in the country, exemplifying a national commitment to expanding access to clean energy. Solar for All is a historic $7 billion investment to enable low-income and disadvantaged households across America to access the benefits of low-cost, clean solar energy—benefits that include home energy savings, energy resilience, improved air quality, wealth building, and quality jobs. The enthusiasm and demand for Solar for All funding from prospective applicants across the country demonstrates the momentum behind the climate, equity, and economic goals of the United States.
EPA is committed to maximizing access to solar energy for low-income and disadvantaged communities across the country through this transformative program. Accordingly, EPA is revising the maximum award amount an applicant can request from the Solar for All program as detailed in Section II.A: Number and Amount of Awards of the Solar for All Notice of Funding Opportunity.
Specifically, the Solar for All NOFO has been revised to reflect the following:
- Applicants must submit proposals requesting funding amounts that do not exceed the funding amounts for the program size they are eligible to apply for as described below. Requested funding amounts must be based on the geography the applicant proposes to serve and the total population of census tracts identified by Climate and Environmental Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) as disadvantaged within the geography the applicant proposes to serve. For example, an applicant with a program covering a geography with four million people living in census tracts identified as disadvantaged by CEJST at the time of application may apply for a medium or small program.
- Applicants may request funding for a program smaller than prescribed in the table below. For example, an applicant with a program that qualifies for a large program may choose to apply for a large, medium, or small program. Conversely, applicants will be ineligible for programs that exceed their total population of disadvantaged census tracts identified by CJEST.
- All applicants should state clearly in the Summary Program Cover Sheet of their application the geography the proposed program will cover and the total population of the census tracts identified as disadvantaged by CEJST in such geography.
|Award range of $25 million and up to $100 million
|Award range of greater than $100 million and up to $250 million
|Award range of greater than $250 million and up to $400 million
|Total population of disadvantaged census tracts identified by CEJST in the program geography: Fewer than 1 million people
|Total population of disadvantaged census tracts identified by CEJST in the program geography: Between 1 million people and 5 million people, inclusive
|Total population of disadvantaged census tracts identified by CEJST in the program geography: Greater than 5 million people
|EPA anticipates making up to 35 awards
|EPA anticipates making up to 20 awards
|EPA anticipates making up to 5 awards
- EPA reserves the right to modify the award allocation based on the quality of applications that are received and additional program considerations and criteria described in the NOFO. EPA encourages applicants to maximize households served with the funds requested in their application.
- Applicants can determine the total population of the census tracts identified as disadvantaged by CEJST within their proposed program geography by following these steps.
- Download the Excel file, titled “Communities list data” with population data for all census tracts from the CEJST downloads webpage. The communities list data Excel includes information on which census tracts are identified as disadvantaged by CEJST.
- Refer to column “T” of the excel file, titled “identified as disadvantaged”, to determine if a census tract is identified as disadvantaged. If this column is “TRUE”, the census tract is disadvantaged according to CEJST.
- Refer to column “W” of the excel file, titled “total population”, to determine the total population of people by census tract. Importantly, the Communities list data Excel includes both disadvantaged census tracts and other census tracts. Applicants should only include the population in census tracts identified as disadvantaged by CEJST (as indicated by column “T” in the Excel) to determine their award range.
- To determine the applicable program award size for a program, applicants must use the population of disadvantaged census tracts identified by CEJST within the geography the program will serve. Applicants may not augment CEJST identified disadvantaged community population with other population data when determining the applicable program award. EPA is choosing to use CEJST population as a proxy metric to determine the appropriate award range for applications, so all applicants are using the same readily available data to identify the appropriate award range. Applicants may still serve other categories of low-income and disadvantaged communities through their programs in alignment with the definition provided in Section I.D: Competition Terminology of the Notice of Funding Opportunity in their program.
- Additional information on this requirement can be found in the Notice of Funding Opportunity Section II.A: Number and Amount of Awards.
Applicants may confirm the funding amount they are eligible to apply for, with EPA, prior to the deadline by filling out answers in the table below for their proposed program and emailing email@example.com. Please note: EPA will have limited ability to confirm the funding amount applicants are eligible to apply for after September 29th, 2023.
|Describe the geography you intend to serve
|List states, counties, or census tracks your program will operate in. Please describe the program geography in as few words as possible while being accurate. For example, if your program will serve an entire state, do not list out all the counties in the state. In this scenario, please include only the state name.
|State the total population of disadvantaged census tracts identified by CEJST in the geography described above
|State the total population of all disadvantaged census tracts in the geography you describe above from CEJST data.
|Specify the amount of funding you are requesting from EPA
|State the amount of funding you intend to request from EPA.
For applicants, considering this change, please review the below guidance from EPA:
- Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO): EPA has released an updated NOFO on grants.gov. The updated NOFO includes the updated award amount guidance described above, the updated deadline for the application, and a clarification that equity investments are an unallowable cost under Solar for All. These changes are in the following sections:
- Section I.E: Scope of Work
- Section III.A: Number and Amount of Awards
- Section III.C: Threshold Eligibility
- Section III.D: Allowable and Unallowable Costs
- Section IV.A: Due Date and Submission Instructions
- Section IV.C: Content of Application Submission
- Section V.A: Evaluation Criteria
- Notice of Intent (NOI): Applicants do not need to submit a new or revised NOI.
- Award amount: EPA recommends applicants consider sizing their award amount within these requirements considering the following factors:
- Timeline: Applicants should consider the feasibility of deploying all the program funds in the five-year period of performance—including any planning period—and request a reasonable award amount from EPA. As described in Section V.A: Evaluation Criteria of the NOFO, EPA will evaluate applicants on the quality and extent to which they demonstrate the procedures and controls for ensuring that awarded grant funds will be expended in a timely and efficient manner.
- Market readiness: Applicants should consider how robust the existing market is for deploying residential distributed solar for low-income and disadvantaged communities and calibrate funding requests appropriately.
- For example, applicants with existing low-income solar programs will likely be able to deploy funds more quickly by building on existing infrastructure and scaling the existing program. As described in Section V.A: Evaluation Criteria of the NOFO, EPA will evaluate applicants on the quality and extent to which the application justifies how the proposed outcome metrics—such as households served—are reasonably achievable, considering historical data.
- In line with this scoring criteria, EPA intends to consider how reasonable proposed outcome metrics are within the grant period of performance when considering final award amounts.
- Collaboration to maximize households served: EPA encourages applicants to collaborate to bring together diverse expertise and experience to create robust, well-rounded applications that maximize the number of households served by this program and create policy and regulatory deployment environments that enable the rapid expansion of residential distributed solar. As described in Section V.A: Evaluation Criteria, EPA will evaluate applicants on the quality and extent of applicant’s partnerships to support program operations.
- EPA expects to only be able to award up to 60 awards under the Solar for All competition. Given the limited number of awards in this competition, EPA strongly encourages entities applying to Solar for All to collaborate, especially if entities are applying within the same state or territory to award option #1.
- As described in Section II.A: Number and Amount of Awards, EPA only intends to award a maximum of 56 awards under award option #1—one for each state and territory eligible for Solar for All. If EPA receives multiple applications serving the same state in award option #1, EPA will likely only award one award to serve that state under award option #1. While programs under award option #1 do not need to serve the entirety of the state or territory, EPA will evaluate applications that maximize geographic coverage, including number of households served, more favorably, as described in Section II.A: Number and Amount of Awards.
- EPA recommends all applicants review the list of states, municipalities, and eligible nonprofit recipients that EPA has received a NOI from.