Legislation to Fight the Climate Crisis and Promote Clean Energy Microgrids is Reintroduced to a Receptive Administration
Congresswomen Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09) and Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44) reintroduced a bill to create the first federal program to build 100-percent clean energy microgrids to power critical infrastructure for communities and protect against extreme weather events and power shut-offs.
The Energy Resilient Communities Act prioritizes energy equity and environmental justice by amplifying grant applications from low-income communities and communities of color for clean energy microgrids that will combat power outages and rolling blackouts and reduce pollution, create green jobs, and fight the climate crisis.
“I am proud to reintroduce the Energy Resilient Communities Act with Congresswoman Barragán. This important legislation will support the creation of resilient and equitable clean energy systems across the nation while also growing clean energy jobs,” said Congresswoman Clarke.
New York’s Ninth Congressional District, which includes Central and South Brooklyn, is home to a thriving clean energy microgrid located at the Marcus Garvey Apartments. Through a combination of solar panels, battery storage, and fuel cell generators, the Marcus Garvey microgrid provides clean reliable energy to apartment residents and supports the neighboring electric grid when the system is particularly stressed. The funds and technical assistance designated in this new legislation will ensure communities throughout Brooklyn gain access to federal resources to implement similar systems across the borough.
“From Superstorm Sandy to summer heatwaves, Brooklynites are all too familiar with the impacts of extreme weather on our communities. Unfortunately, the climate crisis exacerbates these impacts, particularly for communities experiencing the greatest climate and pollution burden yet have received the least in renewable energy investments. Through the federal programs established by this legislation, local communities will have access to considerable grant funding and technical assistance to develop zero-emission microgrids that will simultaneously combat the climate crisis while fortifying our essential services and infrastructure against future climate disasters,” Clarke continued.
In addition to the bill’s importance for maintaining power to critical facilities such as hospitals, fire stations, schools, grocery stores, senior and public housing, the Energy Resilient Communities Act will help our country combat the climate crisis and reduce air pollution. In 2019, 546 microgrids were installed in the United States. Of these, 86 percent were powered, at least in part, by burning fossil fuels. The legislation will support the construction of hundreds of microgrids annually powered by 100 percent clean energy.
In the absence of microgrids, communities often rely on diesel-powered generators, which heavily pollute the air and are dangerous if misused. More than half of the deaths associated with Hurricane Laura were caused by the use of portable generators.
“As the climate crisis worsens, our country is experiencing unprecedented wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and heatwaves – often creating power outages. We experienced this in Los Angeles and throughout California in September when record heat waves created a state of emergency and caused tens of thousands of Southern California residents to lose power. Keeping the lights on and maintaining health care and emergency services can be the difference between life or death. The Energy Resilient Communities Act will help communities recover from extreme weather events by centering our most vulnerable communities at the heart of the clean energy revolution,” Congresswoman Barragán said.
Energy Resilient Communities Act Highlights:
Authorizes $50 million in annual grants for technical assistance and $1.5 billion in annual grants for clean energy microgrids to support the critical infrastructure needed in the aftermath of an extreme weather event.
A minimum of $150 million of annual authorized funding is reserved for grants supporting the construction of community-owned energy systems.
State and local governments, territories, political subdivisions of the state, tribal agencies, utilities, and non-profits can apply for grants.
Grants are prioritized for applications from environmental justice communities.
Examples of critical infrastructure include hospitals, grocery stores, community centers, public safety facilities, water systems, public or affordable housing, medical baseline customers, and senior housing.
Projects are additionally prioritized based on several criteria, including how effectively they reduce pollution and improve public health, whether they are built on previously disturbed land, whether they provide contracts to women and minority-owned businesses, their utilization of apprenticeships, and whether the proposed project will be a community-owned energy system.
The maximum federal cost share of 60%, except for environmental justice communities, where the maximum federal cost share is 90%.
Includes Buy American provisions to maximize American manufacturing jobs in producing materials and technology for microgrids.
There are worker hiring targets for each project to maximize the number of local and economically disadvantaged workers, including those who live in environmental justice communities or were displaced from a previous job in the energy sector.