Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project Webinar: Energy Resilience Planning for Remote, Island, and Islanded Communities (Text Version)

This is the text version for the Energy Resilience Planning for Remote, Island, and Islanded Communities Webinar video.

>>Tessa Greco: I am the program manager for the Energy Resilience—or, Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project, excuse me, affectionately known as ETIPP, and through the rest of this presentation known as ETIPP. Without further ado, we’re just going to go ahead and dive in.

Some logistics before we get started. This webinar is being recorded. Attendees are all in mute, so please, if you have questions, go ahead and submit them using the chat feature, which is located in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. And your questions are going to be answered following this presentation at the end, which I expect will be about 30 minutes long.

Our agenda for today ... I’m going to be providing a brief overview of ETIPP. I'll walk through our various partners and their associated expertise. We will provide an overview of the technical assistance being provided by ETIPP and walk through some examples, as well, of what that technical assistance might look like. And then, finally, we will review the project timeline and the logistics of the application and the process of the application. And then, again, at the end we’ll have a question-and-answer session, so if you have questions, put them into that chat box and we’ll be collecting them throughout the presentation, and we’ll answer them for—at the end of the PowerPoint.

First, we’re going to walk into the overview of ETIPP. So, as many of you know—and I assume are part of or work with—communities that are somewhat in geographic isolation (either remote, islanded, and island communities), you all face unique energy and infrastructure challenge—challenges, excuse me. And that’s ultimately what we’re trying to resolve partially with ETIPP. We’re hoping to bolster the resilience of these communities—communities that are often faced with limited resources.

And some examples of the types of energy infrastructure challenges that remote, islanded, and island communities face. First, remote communities. So, we know that flooding and erosion are posing really imminent threats to critical infrastructure in over 30 Alaskan villages. A community in Northern California relies on only one transmission line to meet all of its energy needs. And in the case of an island community we know that many island communities face electric bills sometimes four times the national average due to aging infrastructure and few scalable options.

So, ETIPP is, again, our answer to resolve some of these challenges faced by communities and also bolster the resilience of these communities. So, we’re really taking and standing up a holistic and community-driven approach to advance these energy transitions in remote, islanded, and island communities. And we’re doing that by providing a comprehensive—go ahead, OK—a comprehensive, technology-neutral technical assistance program that prioritizes the community challenges, values, and goals.

And we’ll emphasize this throughout the presentation, but again, this is really—we’re looking at this effort being driven by community priorities. We want to be led ultimately by the needs identified by community leaders and assist them in the transformation of their energy systems for that goal of resilient energy systems. So, you can see here just a nice little graphic identifying how we’re partnering the community priorities with the deep energy sector experience that we’re bringing via our national lab partners, and then also the specialized local expertise that our regional partners are bringing to the table to hopefully come to these resilient energy systems solutions.

I’d like to spend the next few slides walking through the various partners (and expertise) that have signed on and that we’re currently working with as part of ETIPP to really define the roles that all of our partners are bringing to the table. So, first I'll kind of hone in from the bottom up. We have four Department of Energy offices that are sponsoring this effort and providing not only funding but are also bringing their support and expertise to the table to achieve this energy assessment and planning and operations for energy-resilient communities.

We have the national labs in the middle here in this blue, which are bringing that deep energy sector experience and expertise. So they’re ultimately going to be providing that technology-neutral technical assistance, working alongside the regional partners and the communities to figure out how to attack the challenges identified by the communities and work alongside them to get toward that energy resilience goal.

And then we have our regional partners, which are local, trusted community-based organizations. And they’re our stakeholder engagement and outreach organizations. They’re meant to—or working to—translate the technical content being presented by the labs and DOE and are going to help share learnings and support and contribute to the use case development that we are intending to develop throughout the execution period of the ETIPP TA and following.

And then of course we have our communities, who are at the center of the effort. Again, communities are identifying those challenges, identifying their values and their goals for this technical assistance, and we’re going to help you achieve those.

To dive a bit deeper into the specific roles that each party and partner is going to bring to the table—this is a bit of an eye chart, so I apologize for that in advance. But the Department of Energy ... this is really just to show how all of the goals and objectives, the partnering offices, serve ETIPP, and really what their objectives are for supporting the effort. And I won’t read through this line by line; that would be a lot of content to walk through. But I think you’ll find that upon reading through this in detail, each office has specific tools and expertise and analysis that they are bringing to the table that they want to be utilized by the program. And then there’s a real goal for this second line of the cross-office collaboration. So, each office thinks that there’s a lot to gain from partnering with other offices by pooling their resources and putting the effort toward a technology-agnostic solution for communities and lots of learnings that can be gleaned from this activity that they can then put into their strategic efforts moving forward.

The national labs involved in this effort, we have four. So, there’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Lab, and then Sandia National Laboratories. And the lab role, really, again, is to provide that technology-neutral technical assistance; work with the regional partners and the communities to identify and advance strategic, tailored solutions; and ultimately address those energy challenges, build some capacity, and accelerate sharing of best practices and innovations.

Our regional partners are located across the country, and you can see here on the map we have five in total—two located in Alaska, one in the Northeast, one in the Southeast, and one in Hawaii and covering the Pacific Islands. Each of those—so, the Alaska Center for Energy and Power in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Renewable Energy Alaska Project in Anchorage, Alaska, are both located in Alaska—clearly—and are going to work together to first identify those communities who may be in need of technical assistance and then work on the actual execution of the technical assistance alongside the national labs once those are identified and the work plan is developed.

We have Island Institute in Rockland, Maine, covering the Northeast. And we have Coastal Studies Institute in the Southeast, located in Outer Banks, North Carolina. And then, the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute in Honolulu, covering, again, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.

So, the expectation for our regional partners is that of course they will lead the stakeholder engagement and outreach. The idea behind these regionally located partners is that they know the communities that they work with best. And so, we’re really going to be relying on them for that local expertise and also to translate the content—the technical content—that may come out of the lab so that it’s digestible and relevant to the communities that we’re working with. And again, they’re going to be helping contribute to lessons learned and providing their input to develop those use cases for the specific communities that are based in their regions.

All right. And then last but not least, certainly, are communities. So, through this application process in this first phase of ETIPP, we hope to select between 8 to 12 communities and expect that we’ll be identifying which communities we’ll be working with in a couple months, in spring of this year. Based on the application content and the work plan development, we’re going to be pairing each community that’s selected with a regional partner based on their geographic location, and then also national lab staff based on the technical needs that are identified in the work plan. And the community role, as outlined here, are really first to identify those energy resilience challenges and the potential needs, but also to commit to the exploration of implementing the plans developed in that work plan stage through ETIPP. So, over the course of the 8- to 12-month period, we really want to be sure that all parties are very committed to executing the plans developed.

The communities themselves will be really vital in convening those relevant community decision-makers and influencers—influencers, excuse me—that are going to be vital to the success of the technical assistance program. And then of course the communities will be working alongside our regional partners and our lab technical experts to address the energy challenges that they’ve identified.

So, at this time we’re going to walk through some—a little overview of the technical assistance that could be supplied via ETIPP, and then some examples of that technical assistance.

Now, this is kind of a very simplistic view of what the ETIPP technical assistance could be, but kind of the best way to present the broad spectrum of technical assistance that we feel fits underneath the ETIPP umbrella. And I’ve presented it here in this kind of complexity progression, if you will. Again, it’s kind of a crude explanation, but we felt it was the easiest way to get this across, so bear with me as I walk through it.

So, we’ve kind of envisioned on this complexity progression—on this spectrum—that there are a few buckets that we can place technical assistance within. And starting at kind of that initiating phase going through the building and then to the transitioning, we envision that the initiating would be more of our capacity-building type technical assistance—so, for example, employing, or developing and employing, an energy-efficient buildings training and education program. That would fit into that first bucket. And then of course identifying any associated needs or follow-on opportunities that come as a result of that would fit within the ETIPP framework certainly. And of course technical assistance can cross boundaries as well. These are not just straight buckets. So, I feel like, again, it’s kind of a hard thing to frame, but hopefully we get an idea here.

In that second bucket, the building bucket, you’ll see the types of activities that we envision here are maybe a renewable energy resource assessment and siting analysis. And then, in that transitioning bucket potentially plan development for pilot technology procurement and application. I’m going to go into each one of these in a little bit more detail in the next few slides and provide an example of each.

In this first, the initiating—which, again, we envision as kind of the capacity-development, capacity-building type activities—an example of this: we at NREL were able to work with some tribes who needed some training for solar systems, operations, and maintenance. So, we worked with GRID Alternatives to develop and provide a weeklong workshop for technical staff of five Indian tribes on just this topic. And so the workshop included some classroom learning and some hands-on experience. And again, this is kind of—it’s just an example to present the types of things that we can achieve via ETIPP. And certainly, this would be paired with potentially some other activity to fill out that 12-to-18-month period and really meet the need identified by the communities.

The second example that I’ve got here for the kind of building bucket is an example of a resource characterization that we executed for a coastal North Carolina community. And this was an assessment of PV procurement for a diesel hybrid system for a government building specifically. And there were four buildings that NREL evaluated utilizing the REopt tool, which is an NREL-developed tool, to understand what the techno-economic potential of adding solar plus storage at these four facilities might be, and then to compare the probability of surviving outages with just the existing diesel generator and fixed fuel supply, and compare that with a generator augmented with a PV and battery system.

And so you can see with that analysis there were some gains made with the length of outage and survivability. And so it was a good result and, again, certainly something that could be used as a starting point to then look at potentially planning for and procuring this hybrid system.

And then, the last example that I’ll provide, which is more in that transitioning phase and identifies the actual deployment of a pilot technology. This one was an ask that came from Igiugig, Alaska, and this was an assessment and refinement of their long-term energy strategy. So, the objectives were ultimately to deploy—first, to deploy—an operational river hydrokinetic turbine, and second, to integrate renewable energy sources into their energy plans so that they could achieve a greater-than-70% renewable balance.

And the technical assistance that NREL specifically executed was working with community leaders, academia, utilities, and industry partners. It was really an all-hands-on-deck effort, but we contributed to the analysis of available resource for Igiugig and helped to build scenarios to understand which long-term energy mix would provide the energy self-sufficiency that they were ultimately looking for. Now, this did end up in the deployment of the river hydrokinetic turbine that was mentioned earlier, and so a really interesting application and, yeah, certainly an example—a good example—of what that kind of transitioning bucket could look like. I—we—would not through ETIPP be able to actually deploy a pilot technology at this scale but certainly could take on the planning—the planning for procurement or community support, those types of actions.

So, I want to take a moment to just kind of present the future for ETIPP, or what we think ETIPP could grow into and how it might scale to other community types, whether they be place-based or practice-based, interest-based. ETIPP is ultimately the framework that can be applied to all of these different types of communities. And it starts with convening those local partners and national investors, really taking and unlocking the data and local expertise-driven insights to create that investment-ready, multistakeholder action blueprint to then transition to a wide breadth of energy systems. So we really see this as an opportunity to use this framework to create some replicable learnings that can scale to other community types. Even if at this phase it doesn’t seem like these communities have a lot in common, potentially there are some learnings that we could apply.

Here we’re going to get into the project logistics, the timeline, and the application process. You can see efforts really kicked off last fall, in October, and that is when we put out the RFP and selected our regional partners for the community support. You can see the little “You are here” meter. So, we opened the community applications in December and are looking to close that in mid-February—Feb. 15, to be exact. And once the application closes, we’re going to be reviewing and selecting those 8 to 12 communities and connecting with them and the regional partners and associated labs, technical experts that are going to be working alongside our communities to develop that energy resilience work plan and then execute it. So, as I've said a couple of times, we envision the technical assistance period of performance to be that 8 to 12 months long, so we’re estimating that it may begin in about June of this year and could potentially go through December of 2022.

And this last item here, the knowledge-sharing network, is just to really emphasize that throughout the period of performance of the ETIPP technical assistance we’re going to be meeting with—as a group—with communities throughout the nation to understand what you’re learning, what you’re working on, so we can share that knowledge among ourselves and then put that knowledge into use cases that can hopefully be applied by other communities or interested partners who are learning—who are wanting to learn more or who are thinking about this for their own community. We are targeting that in fall of 2022. There would be a second round for the community application. So that is not set in stone yet, but that’s what we envision.

I believe the link was shared with everyone in the beginning of the webinar, but it’s also located here. So, if you’re interested in applying or would just like to learn more, please visit this link. And you can see a little screenshot of the information that’s included on this page. This is of course the selection criteria, the eligibility, the timeline, background. And we just ask that if you are interested you can go ahead and submit your application by Feb. 15 to be considered in this first round. And we’ll be making the selections in —likely, the announcements will be made in—late March or early April.

If you’re wondering if you can apply, likely you can. We’re not limiting or overly limiting potential applicants for ETIPP. Generally, those who can apply are community-based organizations, government organizations, utilities, utility commissions—anyone who has a deep connection to a community and has strong support from the community. So, that’s really the key. So, if you’re not a community-based organization yourself, a community leader, you’ll need to have a letter of support showing that you have the go-ahead from your community that you identify in the application to move forward with the ETIPP application and that they are also committed to the technical assistance as it’s presented in the application.

Now, if you have any questions certainly you can reach out to the ETIPP@nrel.gov e-mail that's listed at the top, or you can go ahead and reach out to a regional partner in your area. All of the contacts are listed here. If you’re located in Alaska and aren’t sure, you can get in touch with either Patty or Chris at ACEP or REAP, and they will convene and coordinate and move you forward.

So, I think that is the end of my presentation. I am happy to take any questions from the audience.

>>Kimberly Nelson: All right. Thank you for a great presentation. We have a lot of questions coming in. First, “For the purpose of the applications, how is community defined? Could it include a collective of several communities with a shared interest?”

>>Tessa Greco: Yeah, so the definition of community ... we haven’t, again, placed any firm parameters on that; just that it’s rural. So, I believe the parameters—the strict parameters—are that there are less than 50,000 people in the community. Now, if it’s a collaborative of several small communities, all with similar interests, I think that’s absolutely fine. I think the only distinction would be that you would need the—either letters of support or some indication of—support from each of those communities, partnering communities.

>>Kimberly Nelson: OK. Another question is a clarity on definition. “What do we mean by technology-agnostic or technology-neutral?”

>>Tessa Greco: Sure. So, the definition there is really that we’re going in to any challenge or opportunity presented by the community with a technology-neutral approach, meaning that we are not going in with a solar solution for communities or going to try and push one technology over another solution for any of the communities that apply in. We’re really going to be taking in the full breadth of analysis and resources and technologies that are available to us as national lab staff and really want to find the solution that will work best for the community applying in, whether or not it’s one renewable technology over another. I hope that helped in. It wasn’t extremely clear.  

>>Kimberly Nelson: OK. Another thought, or question, is “Can I apply for a community who I might represent?”

>>Tessa Greco: So, if the question is that you are not currently located in the community but are going to be applying in on behalf of a community, I would say that, yes, you can. You would just have to show that you have shopped this around and gotten appropriate support from the community leaders and those who are ultimately going to be working with our national lab staff and our regional partners who execute the technical assistance. So, as long as that relationship has been established and support has been established, then yes.

>>Kimberly Nelson: A question on formatting: “Is there a preferred format for the application?”

>>Tessa Greco: Yes. So, the application online is just a fillable format, so you can go ahead and actually submit responses to the questions online. If you’re not able to access the form online, we do have a fillable form PDF that we’re happy to e-mail out to anyone who needs it. So, you just have to e-mail into the ETIPP@nrel.gov—this e-mail right here—with that request for the fillable form, and we can send it over to you. Alternatively, you can reach out to any of your regional partners in the region that you’re located, and they also have the fillable form PDF and can work with you and advise you on how to fill out the application.

>>Kimberly Nelson: OK. “Does the assistance include state or national permitting or land acquisition?”

>>Tessa Greco: So, in the work plan development, what we can do through the technical assistance is advise on if there’s a procurement needed, land acquisition, if there’s permitting guidance needed; we can develop plans and advise on those needs and certainly identify if there is additional funding support needed following the technical assistance program, set you up so that we identify how to go about or the pathways for going about procuring those monies. As far as explicit land acquisition as part of the ETIPP program, no. And then, guiding through the permitting process, certainly that can be supplied via ETIPP.

>>Kimberly Nelson: Next question is, “Is there any way for nonprofit organizations to get involved with ETIPP to help deliver into the—help with the delivery into the community? Or has the partnership been finalized?”

>>Tessa Greco: So, the partnerships with our regional partners have been finalized. Certainly, I think if you have a specific question on how you might get engaged, please e-mail at that ETIPP@nrel.gov and we can talk about it further. We’re always interested in getting engaged with organizations who are interested. So …

>>Kimberly Nelson: It looks like we have a few questions about the support letters—for instance, “Do you want a compilation of support letters from various community support organizations with the application on the day it’s due? Should we show the letters of support from our local borough office, township, government, or utility provider?”

>>Tessa Greco: I would say that—yes, we would like to see support letters with the application from multiple and different parties. I think it can only help your application in supporting it and moving it forward. I mean, if you show that you have a diverse set of support from different stakeholders within your community, that shows to us that there’s a real commitment and a real desire to engage with the program and to push it forward. So, again, I think it can only help your application. And if you have questions about how to submit or what that might look like, please reach out to any of the partners that you see here or that, again, the ETIPP@nrel.gov.

>>Kimberly Nelson: All right. Next question: “Can a remote community that does not have a clear association with one of the regional partners mentioned apply?”

>>Tessa Greco: Yes. That’s a great question and something we absolutely did think about when selecting our regional partners. If you don’t fit squarely within any one of these regional—please do go ahead and apply. And feel free to reach out to any one of them or, again, that ETIPP@nrel.gov e-mail address, and we’ll figure out a way to get the support you would need through the application process and walk you through it. And we would hate for a community to be—to feel unsupported through the process because you don’t fit squarely within the regions identified by our—by the program and in the selection of our regional partners.

>>Kimberly Nelson: Another attendee asks, “Many of our island homes and buildings are very old. People cannot afford to rebuild or buy new technology. Is there expertise to guide upgrading affordability?”

>>Tessa Greco: I’m sorry, Kim, can you say that one more time? I just missed the last little bit of it.

>>Kimberly Nelson: Yeah. Their question is, “Is there any expertise to guide ...” Oh, I apologize. I just lost the question. It jumped on me. “Is there any expertise to guide—is there expertise to guide upgrading affordability?”

>>Tessa Greco: OK. Yes. I mean, with buildings—building construction, planning, design—yes, absolutely. We have many experts at multiple labs that work within home, commercial, and residential building design for energy efficiency and cost efficiency. And so, certainly that would be a topic that we would be more than happy to tackle via ETIPP.

>>Kimberly Nelson: “Is a city council resolution in support of the application sufficient for showing local support?”

>>Tessa Greco: Yeah. I think so. Sorry for the short answer, but yeah, I believe so.

>>Kimberly Nelson: There are some questions revolving around “Would solar power, vehicle charging stations, be eligible for this project?”

>>Tessa Greco: Yes. I guess it depends on the context in which you’d be presenting the issue. If it’s the procurement and installation, like having the program procure and install, then potentially not. Or potentially we would rescope that to fit within the program. But if it’s guiding on the application analysis for where they should be placed within the community for—to maximize use and efficiency, then absolutely. Certainly, I think we would just need to see how it’s presented within the application and then could assess how best to go about that, that technical assistance, and what we could bring to the table to support the effort.

>>Kimberly Nelson: We do have a couple of questions coming in asking about when do we need the letter of—

>>Tessa Greco: OK. So, I think—you cut off a little at the end, but I think you asked when folks would need to submit the letter of support. It needs to be submitted along with the application. So, you should be in the process of applying; through Feb. 15 when it closes, you should be communicating with stakeholders in the community, decision-makers within the community to ultimately procure those letters of support prior to the submission date.

>>Kimberly Nelson: All right. Thank you for answering. We have quite a few questions coming in about whether these slides and recording will be available. And that answer is yes for those who are curious.

>>Tessa Greco: Yep. Thanks, Kim. And we’re going to place those up on the NREL.gov website, correct?

>>Kimberly Nelson: Correct. Let’s see ... “If we apply as a tribal government, can we partner with the city so that the grant can serve all Native and non-Native community members?”

>>Tessa Greco: Absolutely. That sounds like a wonderful partnership and certainly something that, one that would fit within the scope of this effort. I guess I’ll caveat that with just adhering to the definition of rural. So, we are trying to stick to that less than 50,000 people in a community.

>>Kimberly Nelson: OK. Another question is—from an attendee—is, “One of the issues with our community is that we have difficulty choosing between options and don’t necessarily have the technical ability to assess if our intervention or project is cost-effective or doing what we hoped it would. Can you help with this kind of assessment?”

>>Tessa Greco: Yeah, I think that that is a problem that many communities face. And that’s part of what we’re trying to achieve working with the regional partners, working with our lab staff here, and advising communities on a good path forward, on an achievable path forward, one that will bolster your energy resilience and work for the needs of the community. So absolutely, that’s something—if you are chosen as a, or selected for the program for this first phase—during that work plan development, we’d be working together as the community, the regional partner, the lab staff, to identify a good path forward and really define that work plan and what it will look like in that 12- to 18-month period. Maybe that technical assistance is just figuring out what the best path forward is by doing resource characterization analysis and then devising a plan following that. Or maybe it’s identifying—doing a little bit of preanalysis, identifying the one solution that you want to move forward with, and then starting in on that. So, yes, it can look different, but the idea is that yes, we would be advising on the best path forward with of course the community input and understanding your needs and the challenges that you face.

>>Kimberly Nelson: OK. “Is there an option to work with USDA Rural Utilities and jointly plan energy and broadband projects?”

>>Tessa Greco: That’s a great question. I think we’d, again, have to see what that application looks like and what the interest looks like. It may be that during the technical assistance we kind of set you up for the endgame—and engaging and figuring out ways to engage with USDA. But again, I can’t answer absolutely until we would see more information with the application.

>>Kimberly Nelson: OK. It looks like we have a couple more questions here if we’re good on time. One attendee has a question whether we have a regional partner for the U.S. Caribbean.

>>Tessa Greco: Yeah. The idea is that, again—so, those communities that don't explicitly fall into one of the regions that we’ve identified, certainly we encourage you to still apply in or get in touch with us at that ETIPP@nrel.gov e-mail address, and we can work with you and advise you on how to fill in the application.

>>Kimberly Nelson: OK, it looks like we’re slowing down on questions. Would you like to answer a couple more, Tessa?

>>Tessa Greco: Sure. We’ve got 5 minutes left, so we might as well get cranking.

>>Kimberly Nelson: “What opportunities are available for academic institutions to be involved with the projects, either through the national labs or regional partners?”

>>Tessa Greco: So, I think there’s definitely an opportunity. It would all come down to that partnering relationship with a specific community. So, getting engaged in that way or, again, if you want to—if it’s not quite clear that that would work, or you don’t, aren’t working with a community or haven’t identified a community that you could work with, then I might reach out to that ETIPP@nrel.gov e-mail address with your specific inquiry and we can try and talk through it and see if there are any opportunities going forward.

I do see a question—sorry, Kim—about climate change issues. So, yes, the partners are knowledgeable about these issues in the context of supporting your energy resilience, of course. So, whether that’s bolstering resilience in regards to weatherization, in regards to critical facilities assurance, hazards assurance ... certainly we can address those types of issues as well in ETIPP.

>>Kimberly Nelson: Another question came in asking, “May an applicant submit relevant data after the application has been submitted but before the selection process begins?”

>>Tessa Greco: I guess I’m not quite clear on the question. So, can data be submitted, not with the application but following that in support of the application? I guess—I think any data that you would like to be reviewed as part of your application for ETIPP, please include it in the actual body of the application. Supplemental data should not be submitted as a separate document. Certainly, if you are selected as a community, we will have an opportunity to request some additional data and hope that it would be supplied so that we can support you better.

>>Kimberly Nelson: OK. And then one final question: “Can you point us to recommended definitions of and metrics for resilience?”

>>Tessa Greco: Sure. I believe the definition for resilience is included in that website. So, if you go to the website, you’ll be able to see the definition that we are currently utilizing for resilience and this effort. As far as metrics, we can certainly do some follow-on should you be selected as a community. We can dig into that a little further and define resilience metrics specific to your community that you’d like to charge ahead towards.

>>Kimberly Nelson: OK. And that puts us at time.

>>Tessa Greco: Great. Thank you, Kim. I just want to say thank you to everyone who joined. We appreciate your engagement and questions and hope you stay engaged. And we hope to see some of your applications in the next few weeks. Appreciate it. Thanks so much.

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