Energy Infrastructure & IIJA: Funding, Timelines, Model Projects

Wednesday, January 26, 2022
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6 min
energy infrastructure
reliability
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Ellory Monks

Lover of infrastructure, cities, environment. Also: women engineers, Rice University. Co-Founder of @TheAtlas4Cities & 2x mom.

Electric infrastructure – the energy infrastructure that generates, transmits and distributes electricity – is foundational to modern life. The state of that electric infrastructure in the United States is troubled: the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the country’s energy infrastructure a C- in its 2021 American Infrastructure Report Card. Electric infrastructure in the United States is prone to disruptions due to natural disasters and is at risk to security threats like cyber and terrorist attacks. For example, the 2021 Texas Winter Storm caused power outages that affected more than five million people. Furthermore, the current electric grid is outdated, inflexible and ill-equipped to handle the transition to renewable energy and transportation that is already well underway in the United States.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) includes $65 billion for energy infrastructure and clean energy transmission. The funding included in the legislation will be spent on building new, resilient transmission lines, expanding renewable and clean energy usage and building a network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

This section includes the energy infrastructure-focused reauthorized and newly established programs included in the infrastructure deal. It also encompasses the relative speed at which state and local governments can expect to see the money. It is worth noting that much of the funding for electric infrastructure will not go directly to state or local governments – applicant type is listed under each program below.

Finally, this section also includes case studies of successfully implemented power infrastructure and clean energy projects – ones that have delivered on similar goals outlined in IIJA.

Funding Priorities for Energy Infrastructure included in IIJA

The funding priorities for energy infrastructure are outlined in IIJA itself. We know, for example, that federal agencies have mandates from Congress and from the White House to deliver reliable electricity, create more clean energy infrastructure and make strides towards achieving “vision zero”.

The legislation outlines these key funding priorities for energy infrastructure:

  1. Reliability – Programs like the reauthorized Smart Grid Investment Program and newly established Enhancing Resilience Grant Programs will help prevent outages and enhance the resilience of the electric grid. The funding will reduce electric utilities’ vulnerability against natural disasters and disruptive events.
  2. Sustainability – Newly established programs like the Electric Vehicle Charging and Refueling Grants give funding to achieve low and zero emission transportation and energy services.
  3. Affordability – The DOE’s newly established Transmission Facilitation Program will develop cross-country transmission lines and increase resilience by connecting regions. This will increase affordability for and access to clean energy sources.

State and local government energy leaders should reference these funding priorities frequently as they are considering which projects to put forward for funding. For example, weatherization projects and the construction of microgrids are likely to receive IIJA funding.

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Relevant Power Infrastructure Programs in IIJA & Speed of Distribution

Here is a breakdown of the related power grid update programs in IIJA and the relative speed at which local governments can expect to receive the funding.

For electric infrastructure, the fastest results for state and local governments would be getting money from reauthorized competitive grant programs. IIJA provides additional funding to this reauthorized energy formula program:

  • Reauthorized Competitive Grant
  • Funding Amount: $3 billion
  • Recipients: State and local governments, municipal electric utilities

The next energy infrastructure money that state and local governments are likely to see will come from newly established revolving loan funds. These tend to move more quickly than competitive grant funds because the review and selection process for competitive grants takes time.

  • Newly Established Revolving Loan Fund
  • Funding Amount: $2.5 billion
  • Applicants: Any entity seeking to undertake a transmission facilitation project

Finally, state and local governments are likely to see money from newly created competitive grant programs. This money tends to move the slowest. Here are the newly established competitive grant programs for energy infrastructure:

  • Newly Established Competitive Grant
  • Funding Amount: $5 billion
  • Applicants: Electric grid operators, electricity storage operators, electricity generators, transmission owners or operators, distribution providers, fuel suppliers

  • Newly Established Competitive Grant
  • Funding Amount: $2.5 billion
  • Applicants: States, units of local government, public authorities with transportation function, Tribal nations

Of course, this sequencing is a generalization. The exact sequencing of when state and local governments will receive money from the programs above depends on complexity of the program involved, especially for the newly established revolving loan funds and competitive grant programs. For example, certain newly established loan funds may require significant data collection to write allocation formulas. When that’s the case, funds through those programs will be slower to arrive.

Model Power Infrastructure & Clean Energy Projects to Prioritize for IIJA Funding

Right now, many state and local government energy leaders are thinking big about the electric grid modernization projects they can pursue and the impacts they can achieve with the historic IIJA investments. And if they’re not, they should be. The scale of energy infrastructure investment included in IIJA happens no more than once in a generation. In this section, we’ve compiled a list of case studies from state and local governments who have successfully pursued energy infrastructure and transmission projects that are consistent with the funding priorities included in the legislation.

Our hope is that these case studies inspire state and local government leaders to plan beyond the initial influx of federal money and serve as models for impactful power infrastructure and clean energy projects to put forward for IIJA funding.

Microgrids

To attract businesses seeking highly resilient electricity and foster the development of local, clean energy Cuyahoga County set up a public utility division specifically for managing microgrids, making it the first county in Ohio to do so.

Local Gov Case Study


The City of Berkeley researched building a clean energy microgrid community to provide power to critical facilities during power outages. After finding obstacles preventing the widespread adoption of microgrids, the city developed a more cost-effective solution to enhance the resilience of the city’s facilities.

Local Gov Case Study

Aspiring to reach net-zero emissions by 2035, Montgomery County resolved to electrify its bus fleet but needed infrastructure built to power the vehicles in a sustainable, resilient way. Building a microgrid via a P3 partnership to power the fleet, the county is estimated to have reduced lifetime emissions by 62%.

Local Gov Case Study


As part of campus-wide initiative to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, the University of California, San Diego built up its microgrid with a cogeneration plant and solar power, creating a more energy-efficient cost-saving alternative to a standard power grid.

Local Gov Case Study

Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

Located along The Ray, the Visitor Information Center in West Point, Georgia is home to the state’s very first solar-powered PV4EV (photovoltaic for electric vehicle) charging station. This is part of the state’s mission to build the infrastructure necessary to support electric vehicle transportation.

Local Gov Case Study

Seattle City Light represents one of the nation’s largest publicly owned utilities, providing carbon-neutral electricity to over 900,000 residents in Seattle. To build up electric vehicle infrastructure, the utility has installed 16 fast chargers at 6 charging stations across the city with plans to develop more.

Local Gov Case Study

Local government leaders who are unsure of where to start should explore the free courses for government leaders at Microgrids.io, a platform developed by The New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Center for Resilient Design with funding from DOE.

We hope these case studies inspire you and demonstrate the scale and type of community impacts that are possible with the energy infrastructure investments included in IIJA. Want to see more? Browse energy case studies in The Atlas case study database.

 

Next up: Legacy Pollution & IIJA: Funding, Timelines, Model Projects

 


Author’s Note: Rachel Angulo (Content Marketing Manager at The Atlas) provided writing and research support to this section. Mark Funkhouser (Former Mayor of Kansas City, MO), Shalini Vajjhala (Executive Director of the San Diego Regional Policy & Innovation Center) and Erik Caldwell (Director of Data Strategy at The Atlas and former Deputy Chief Operating Officer at the City of San Diego) generously reviewed this section.

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