Applications Open for $80 Million in Funding for Energy Improvements in Public Schools

A school under construction inn Portland, Maine
A school under construction inn Portland, Maine in 2020. Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
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The Biden administration has opened up applications for public schools to access $80 million in grants for funding energy improvements. The Renew America’s Schools grant program will service high-need K-12 school districts. The funding is part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced the open applications on November 29. Schools will need to qualify as rural and/or high poverty to receive funding, which is designated for energy-efficient upgrades in the often aging and inefficient school infrastructure.

The 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure found that 53% of public schools reported dated infrastructure, and nearly 41% of respondents reported heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) problems. Many of these buildings double as community facilities and emergency resource centers and need efficient, reliable infrastructure to support all of these functions.

The Renew America’s Schools grant program has a total of $500 million for 2022 through 2026 but is opening applications for an initial funding round of up to $80 million. Projects eligible for funding include HVAC upgrades, renewable energy installations and alternative vehicles and accompanying infrastructure, as Utility Dive reported

“By making our students’ learning environments healthier with these critical energy improvements, our children will be better able to reach their full potential in the classroom,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement. “DOE is working diligently to deploy these critical funds so that schools can start turning infrastructure improvements into healthier learning environments and big cost savings, as soon as possible.”  

Interested applicants can join the program webinar on December 6. Concept papers must be submitted by January 26, 2023, and applications are due by April 21, 2023.

Additionally, educational agencies can apply for the Energy Champions Leading the Advancement of Sustainable Schools Prize (Energy CLASS) program, where up to 25 agencies will receive $100,000 to hire and train staff as energy managers. After one year, participants can submit progress reports and may qualify for an additional $50,000. More information on Energy CLASS will be provided in a webinar on December 7, and applications for this program are due by February 28, 2023.

Although the program is a step in the right direction, critics note it is far below the $100 billion in federal funding that the administration originally proposed for updating school infrastructure. According to the 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, there is an estimated $38 billion annual funding gap for public school facilities in the U.S.

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