DOE’s Latest Funding Supports Energy Infrastructure, Building Technology

August 22, 2023 by Shannon Cuthrell

The U.S. Department of Energy will invest $107 million in four projects focusing on the nation’s energy infrastructure and building technologies. Here’s a briefing. 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled four funding programs to replace old power distribution transformers, electrify energy equipment, improve grid resilience, and develop advanced building retrofit technologies. These programs, totaling $107.4 million, unleash the latest tranches of federal funds targeting energy infrastructure investments. 


Transmission towers

Transmission towers. Image used courtesy of Pexels/by Pok Rie


$20M To Replace Aging Infrastructure 

The DOE is committing $20 million to fund energy-efficient power distribution transformers and extended product systems that use equipment running on electric motors, such as air compressors, fans, and pumps. Funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the two rebate programs will allow utilities, manufacturers, tribes, and critical services like hospitals and schools to finance upgrades that consume less energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The recipients could receive up to $25,000 in rebates annually. 


Video used courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy


Transformers are crucial to the U.S. economy, serving as the backbone of the power grid. However, today’s demand for transformers is mainly related to upgrades and replacements of aging equipment. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the average transformer is 38 years old, and over two-thirds exceed 25 years. 

The distribution transformer rebates will replace aging and inefficient transformers with newer models. According to the guidance document, the program is open to purchasers of a qualified energy-efficient transformer that replaces an inefficient one.

The other rebate program will replace aging or inefficient equipment to reduce operational and manufacturing costs and cut emissions. Qualified entities include purchasers of the installed extended product system or the owners of the commercial or industrial equipment receiving the new system. The guidance document defines an extended product system as follows (see the image below): 


Here’s how the DOE defines an extended product system for the rebate program

Here’s how the DOE defines an extended product system for the rebate program. Image used courtesy of DOE (page 3)


In December 2022, the DOE proposed new standards requiring nearly all new distribution transformers to incorporate energy-efficient amorphous steel cores. 


$34M for Electric Grid Improvements in States, Tribes

The DOE recently revealed the fifth cohort of its Grid Resilience State and Tribal Formula Grants, a program intending to distribute $2.3 billion to states, territories, and tribes over the next five years. 

Two states and three tribal nations received $34 million through the latest round. Funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the grants will help improve the electric grid’s resilience in natural disasters and extreme weather. The announcement comes as recent heat waves have hit several regions nationwide, and forecasters predict a rough hurricane season. 

North Carolina received the most funding, totaling $18.5 million, to deploy modernization technologies boosting the grid’s flexibility and reliability in disadvantaged communities. The grant will also support workforce development projects. 

Missouri will use its $13.8 million for grid resilience and reliability improvements for small and disadvantaged communities while using a demand-side management strategy to optimize investments.

The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California received $1.3 million to modernize its grid infrastructure and minimize impacts from weather events. 

The Florida-based Miccosukee Tribe of Indians will use its $229,000 to update grid infrastructure and expand its workforce skills development. Maine’s Aroostook Band of Micmacs received $194,000 to modernize its grid and upgrade outdated or failing equipment. 


$7.4M Formula Grant for Puerto Rico

The fifth cohort was revealed shortly after the DOE announced Puerto Rico would receive a $7.4 million Grid Resilience State and Tribal Formula Grant to modernize its electric grid and reduce impacts from severe weather and natural disasters. The financing will support Puerto Rico’s ongoing grid improvements and resilience efforts, adding to another $1 billion fund allocated earlier this year. 


$46M for Residential and Commercial Building Technology

The DOE is investing $46 million in 29 projects across 15 states to develop advanced building technologies and retrofitting practices to reduce energy waste and improve efficiency and demand flexibility. The Buildings Energy Efficiency Frontiers and Innovation Technologies (BENEFIT) program targets residential and commercial buildings, which consume 40% of the nation’s energy and account for around one-third of carbon emissions. 

Over half of the projects will target improvements to space conditioning and water heating, representing over 50% of home energy use. Other projects will focus on components in homes and buildings. 

The funding was divided into several topics: heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and water heating; plug-and-play thermal energy storage; battery energy storage systems; plug load controls and connected lighting; and opaque building envelope retrofit and diagnostic solutions.