USDA Announces REAP Energy Technical Assistance Funding

On March 11, 2009, the USDA issued a Notice of Solicitation of Applications (NOSA) for the Rural Energy for America (REAP) Energy Audit/Renewable Energy Development Assistance Program. You can download the NOSA here.

Congress added a separate section for this program in REAP in the 2008 Farm Bill. This new program offers grants to government entities, institutions of higher education, rural electric cooperatives and public power entities to implement energy audit and renewable energy development assistance programs that serve agricultural producers and rural small businesses to help cut energy waste and develop clean energy production.

An estimated $2.4 million will be available nationwide this program. A single applicant may receive up to $100,000 for the year and the deadline for applications is June 9th. A 25% cost-share is required of an agricultural producer or rural small business receiving an audit from a grantee under this program.

To be clear – REAP’s energy technical assistance program is for government and rural electric cooperative/private power entities. Although the REAP statute suggests that other similar entities, such as non-profit trade associations, could be eligible to apply, this year USDA chose not to allow such entities to apply for program grants. USDA may expand the program to include these types of entities in future years.

Summary of Program Elements

Note: The following is a summary of the major elements of the program. Please review the NOSA for complete details.

  • USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service will administer this program.
  • Deadline for submitting grant requests to USDA is June 9, 2009 (90 days from publication of the Notice in the Federal Register).
  • Eligible applicants for this program include:
    • Unit of state, tribal or local government
    • Land-grant college, university or other institution of higher education
    • Rural Electric Cooperative
    • Public Power entity
  • Maximum $100,000 grant per applicant
  • Grants can be used:
    • To conduct energy audits that:
      • Describe current energy systems and use and price over the previous 12 months
      • List all potential energy-saving opportunities and the cost
      • Discuss how potential improvements might interact with existing systems
      • Estimate potential energy and cost savings from each improvement
      • Rank potential improvements by cost-effectiveness
      • Include any necessary spec and drawings and description of other benefits, such as reliability and durability
    • Conduct and promote renewable energy development assistance.
    • Only to support activities in rural areas (generally areas less than 50,000 people)
  • Applications are submitted to the State Rural Development office or via
  • Applications need to include:
    • Form SF 424 – Application for Federal Assistance
    • Form SF 424A – Budget Information, Non-Construction Programs
    • From SF 424B – Assurances, Non-Construction Programs
    • For legal entities, copies of documents showing the applicant’s legal existence and authority to perform activities under this grant
    • Detailed scope of work:
      • Executive Summary
      • Plan and schedule for implementation
      • Anticipated number of ag producers and/or rural small businesses to be served
      • Itemized budget with cost per service and matching funds clearly identified
      • Geographic scope of the project
      • Detailed experience in performing similar services and administering state or federal funds
      • Resources, including personnel, technology and finances, that will be used to carry out the plan
      • Amount of funding being leveraged from other sources and paperwork to confirm the commitment of the funds
      • Description of proposed marketing efforts
      • Most recent financial audit or other financial information that shows the current standing of the applicantĀ A Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System Number
    • Review comments from the State Single Point of Contact, designated by the federal Office of Management and Budget, or evidence the State decided not to review the project
  • Eligible project costs include:
    • Salaries
    • Travel for purposes of conducting audits and assessments
    • Office supplies
    • Up to 5% of grant funding can be used for utilities, office space, office equipment and other administrative costs.
  • Any rural small business or agricultural producer receiving an energy audit must pay the entity performing the audit a 25% share of the cost of the audit. This cost share is not required for a renewable energy assessment.
  • USDA will score project applications using the following criteria, with a maximum possible score of 100 points:
    • Up to 10 points – percentage of work that will be performed by in-house, qualified auditors or renewable energy specialists
    • 10 points – if no funds are used for administrative expenses
    • Up to 15 points – experience in completing the proposed activities
    • Up to 10 points – geographic scope of project in relation to identified need (bigger is better)
    • Up to 15 points – lower costs per audit/assessment are better
    • Up to 25 points – potential of project to produce energy savings (including its environmental benefits)
    • Up to 10 points – comprehensive marketing and outreach plan
    • Up to 5 points – leveraging other funding commitments (more leverage is better)
  • Awarding funds – USDA will decide, based on applicable regulations, whether to issue grants in advance or by reimbursement.
  • Before a grant can be approved, an applicant must sign a grant agreement, which can be found at the end of the Federal Register notice.
  • Grantees are required to monitor their performance and submit semi-annual performance and financial reports along with a final report 90 days after project completion.
  • One year after completion, a grantee must also submit a report on results in terms of energy savings and renewable energy production.
  • Grantees are also required to keep detailed financial records and undergo an annual audit.
  • Applications must include consideration and documentation of environmental concerns in their proposed area of operation, the potential environmental impact of their plan and any alternatives considered for the purpose of mitigating any environmental impacts.