Clean Energy to Communities Program: Expert Match

Through the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) program, NREL, other national laboratory experts, and select organizations provide Expert Match—free, short-term technical assistance to address near-term clean energy challenges and questions.

Suitability

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Expert Match is most suitable for communities that could benefit from assistance to inform time-sensitive decisions and identify and understand the range of options for achieving clean energy goals. The Expert Match technical assistance timeframe is 40–60 hours over 1–2 months.

Eligibility

C2C Open Opportunities Informational Webinar

Watch the webinar recording.

Expert Match Application

Apply now.

Expert Match is for community stakeholders who have decision-making power or influence in their community but need access to additional clean energy expertise to inform key upcoming decisions. Community stakeholders can represent a:

  • City, town, or county (local government)
  • Tribal government
  • Metropolitan planning organization
  • Regional planning organization
  • Community-based organization
  • Nongovernmental organization
  • Utility
  • University.

For-profit entities are not eligible for assistance through this program.

A C2C Expert Match pilot helped Cohoes, New York, explore and plan for historic building clean energy retrofits and a first-in-the nation municipality-owned and -operated floating solar project.

Project Examples

  • With clean energy goals in mind, what are some best practices to consider around zoning and permitting for our community?
  • What is our community's potential for using low-temperature geothermal power generation? Could we create geothermal districts?
  • What energy storage solutions could work with our legislation and fire code?
  • We want to increase access to clean energy and improve energy efficiency for low-income neighborhoods. What strategies would work in this situation?
  • We need support in explaining our clean energy goals in language relevant to people in our community. How will our plan improve resilience, create jobs, and boost economic development?
  • We want to improve resilience for our key community buildings but need help figuring out financing. Are there best practices for engaging potential funders?
  • Retrofitting buildings is an important step in our clean energy transition, but it's a heavy lift with a lot of uncertainties. Where could we start? What strategies have worked in other towns or cities like ours? What are the key components of a building energy benchmarking program? Are there any best practices we can refer to?
  • How could we begin to plan for electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in our community?
  • How could we set goals for EV deployment? What are some considerations to be aware of regarding equitable EV deployment? What have similar communities done?
  • How can we ensure our plan for electric vehicle supply equipment deployment will lead to equitable outcomes in terms of charging and accessibility?
  • How could we estimate upfront electric vehicle supply equipment or EV costs and air-quality impacts based on different parameters in different areas?
  • We need to change our municipal lighting to LEDs. Do you have any resources on suitable technologies we could consider requesting from our utility? How could we approach financing?
  • We think we need hydrogen to complete our transition, but does hydrogen work like we think it will?

Expert Support

Your community could be matched with experts on a variety of topics, including: 

  • Residential and commercial solar deployment in cities, tribal communities, and rural areas
  • Renewable energy procurement
  • Community transitions, including jobs and economic development
  • Energy efficiency measures for residential and commercial buildings
  • Microgrids
  • Electric vehicle adoption and deployment.

How To Apply

Submit an Expert Match application. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Your community's application will be reviewed against established requirements and criteria, including the special need for expert assistance, availability of experts, and equity priorities.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) program aims to significantly accelerate the speed and scale of commitments, plans, and actions to increase clean energy, create jobs, build resiliency, and advance environmental justice by providing direct support to local communities to achieve their own goals. C2C aims to address crosscutting energy challenges with a community-centered focus.
As a key component of C2C, communities can apply to access short-term technical assistance through the “Expert Match” program. This program will match the participating community with a relevant expert who will provide 40–60 hours of expert advice and technical services to communities on clean energy topics such as clean power, mobility, buildings, and the grid.
After reviewing a community's application, the C2C Expert Match coordination team will identify a topic area expert at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, other national labs, or partner organizations whose work aligns with the community's request.
The term "community" is broadly applied to include organizations that represent cities, towns, municipalities, or tribes. It may also apply to organizations that represent a particular group or area within a city, town, municipality, or tribe. Local and tribal governments, community-based organizations, universities, and utilities can represent a community in applying for Expert Match assistance. Representatives who can employ the tools and lessons learned to promote their community's clean energy goals are encouraged to apply.
For-profit organizations or consultants are not eligible to receive assistance through this program. Organizations based outside the United States are also ineligible; we encourage international stakeholders to look into opportunities available through the Clean Energy Solutions Center.

Applications received will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Please note that this does not mean technical assistance will start immediately upon acceptance to the program. The start date of technical assistance is dependent on expert availability. We will keep you updated about the status of your request via email. Your response to Application Question 18 ("How soon do you need the requested assistance in order to inform the plan, policy, or project you are working on?") will help us determine if an expert will be available in the time frame needed for your community.

The C2C Expert Match team plans to work with up to 200 communities in 2023. Approximately 15 communities will be supported per month.

Expert Match is intended to provide 40–60 hours of technical assistance from an expert in the requested topic area over the course of 1–3 months, starting from the decision date. The length will be determined after an initial conversation between the appropriate technical expert and the participating community representative(s) through an agreed-upon scope of work.

Yes! Each community can receive Expert Match support on multiple topics, although total support is capped at 40–60 hours.

Expert Match may cover technical areas such as:

  • Clean power, including solar, wind, hydropower, nuclear, and geothermal
  • Mobility, including personal mobility, shared mobility, freight, and infrastructure
  • Buildings, including grid-interactive buildings, advanced building construction, and connected communities
  • Grid, including transmission and distribution infrastructure
  • Other topics related to clean energy, including cross-cutting topics such as climate mitigation, financing, resilience, and environmental justice.

A few specific areas are not supported under this program. Specifically, we cannot provide legal advice or specific policy recommendations, and we cannot assist with grant writing. We can, however, conduct analyses that could be used by the applicant to inform decision-making and/or grant proposals.

To help address historical and present practices that result in the marginalization and overburdening of certain communities, the White House's Justice40 Initiative calls for 40% of benefits of all federal programs to be allocated to disadvantaged communities, also referred to as environmental justice communities. We ask about your community's disadvantaged status to understand where the benefits of C2C are occurring. The application question is partially open-ended, as we want to give communities the flexibility to define how they see their disadvantaged status, recognizing that many of the burdens that communities face are not captured in any prescribed set of metrics. That said, the question also provides several resources that communities can use to help identify whether and how their community registers as disadvantaged (see below).

Some common disadvantaged community metrics include: 

30% of the community is classified as low-income 

The community has a historical economic dependence on fossil fuel industrial facilities 

The community has environmental justice considerations (e.g., moderate to high exposure to pollution or toxins) 

The community experiences high levels of energy burden (defined as a median spending of household income on energy needs greater than or equal to 6%).

Some resources communities can leverage to determine and report their disadvantaged status include: 

U.S. Department of Energy's Disadvantaged Communities Reporter Tool

U.S. Census Bureau's Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates Tool

U.S. Department of Energy's Low-Income Energy Affordability Data Tool

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's EJScreen Tool.

Yes! All communities are welcome to apply regardless of their disadvantaged status.

Yes! You can apply for assistance through Expert Match multiple times. However, if there are more applicants than available support, and other applicants are equally qualified, priority may be given to communities that have not received prior support through the program.

Yes! Participating in C2C does not limit you from additional DOE funding opportunities. However, if there are more applicants than available support, and other applicants are equally qualified, priority may be given to communities that have not received prior support from the U.S. Department of Energy.

No, communities are not required to make a financial commitment. During the length of Expert Match support, the primary commitment of community representatives will be their time, feedback, and expertise. Our primary objective is to ensure that those receiving assistance have authority and/or influence in community processes to implement learnings.

For any inquiries not addressed here, please email C2Cexpertmatch@nrel.gov.

Other Program Support

See the C2C program offerings.

Contact

If you have questions about Expert Match or the C2C program, email C2Cexpertmatch@nrel.gov.


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