Clean Energy to Communities Program: Peer-Learning Cohorts

Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) offers peer-learning cohorts to advance local clean energy goals. Cohorts are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and managed by NREL with support from the World Resources Institute.

Illustration of connected molecules

Peer-learning cohorts are multicommunity engagements that convene regularly for approximately 6 months to exchange strategies and best practices, learn in a collaborative environment, and workshop policy or program proposals, action plans, or strategies to overcome challenges around a common clean energy transition topic.

Lab experts provide a cohort of approximately 15 communities with education, case studies, analysis and modeling tools, templates, trainings, and facilitated collaboration to enable accelerated clean energy progress.

Eligibility

Peer-learning cohorts are intended for primary applicants that have decision-making power or influence in their community but need access to additional clean energy expertise to inform upcoming opportunities. Eligible primary applicants for cohort topics may include:

  • Tribes
  • City, town, or county (local) governments
  • Metropolitan planning organizations
  • Regional planning organizations
  • Utilities
  • Community-based organizations
  • Other public entities, such as transit agencies, school districts, and housing authorities.

How To Apply to C2C Cohorts

Applications for C2C peer-learning cohorts are currently closed.

January 2024 Cohort Topics

Explore current C2C cohort topics below.

Topic Description

This cohort will guide participants through the early stages of their municipal building decarbonization journey. Over the course of six monthly workshops, participants will evaluate and prioritize municipal buildings and operations-based energy load for cost-effective energy efficiency and decarbonization strategies, exchange challenges, strategies, and lessons learned with peers and identify best practices related to investing in energy efficiency, electrification, and other decarbonization strategies.

Cohort participants will build an understanding of how to benchmark building energy use and discuss strategies for decarbonizing typical energy loads for municipal building operations. Participants will also evaluate and select a priority building or building type on which to focus their decarbonization efforts, review possibilities and challenges associated with available technologies (including building retrofits, electric heat pumps and electric water heaters, clean energy, and storage technologies), and determine remaining needs to advance contracting implementation.

Cohort sessions may include (but are subject to change based on participant priorities):

  • Benchmarking and identifying strategies for municipal building decarbonization
  • Energy efficiency, retrofits, and electrification
  • Renewable energy and storage
  • Funding and financing for municipal building decarbonization
  • Moving from planning to procurement
  • Peer-to-peer consultation: scoping procurement and financing.

Expected Outcomes

Participants will leave this cohort having prioritized municipal buildings for energy efficiency and decarbonization investments and completed a request for proposal template to retain services from a firm to lead decarbonization work (potentially including retrofits, electrification, clean energy, storage, or other technologies) for a particular building or set of buildings.

Participants

  • Ames, Iowa
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Boca Raton, Florida
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Crafton Borough, Pennsylvania
  • Hailey, Idaho
  • Howard County, Maryland
  • Key West, Florida
  • Mount Vernon, New York
  • Reading, Pennsylvania
  • Salem, Oregon
  • Skokie, Illinois
  • Washtenaw County, Michigan
  • Windham, Maine

Topic Description

This cohort will support participants as they seek to enhance resilience at one or more critical facilities (e.g., hospitals, fire stations, emergency shelters, or wastewater treatment plants). Over the course of 6 months, cohort participants will explore key aspects of enhancing resilience at a critical municipal facility, to include benchmarking current building energy use; identifying opportunities to increase energy efficiency and electrification at the site(s); sizing and placing on-site renewable generation and storage technologies; and calculating costs of creating a microgrid versus a grid-connected system. These strategies can be leveraged to develop a resilient site that functions to keep critical operations online at one or more publicly owned, operated, or accessible critical facilities.

Cohort sessions may include (but are subject to change based on participant priorities):

  • Defining critical operations for emergency conditions and selecting a site
  • Exploring renewables, storage, and grid resilience
  • Defining technology use cases for your critical facility site
  • Exploring considerations for financing and procurement
  • Individual technical assistance session: considerations in designing a resilient critical facility
  • Peer showcase.

Expected Outcomes

After the cohort, participants will have analyzed what size solar and storage systems are suited for installation at the critical facility of interest; learned how to navigate grid-upgrade and microgrid processes with their utility and other external partners; and explored financing and procurement considerations for their identified facility.

Participants

  • Albemarle County, Virginia
  • Bellevue College, Washington
  • Cook County, Illinois
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Edmond Electric, Oklahoma
  • Lander, Wyoming
  • LUMA Energy, Puerto Rico
  • Mesa, Arizona
  • Miami, Florida
  • Morris, Minnesota
  • Penobscot Indian Nation
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Santa Monica, California
  • Sipayik Resilience Committee
  • Stowe Electric Department, Vermont
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma

Topic Description

This cohort will support local governments, tribes, and municipal utilities to develop a community-driven approach to transportation electrification. Over the course of six monthly workshops, participants will explore effective pathways for community engagement around electrified transportation needs, learn about methods to achieve more equitable outcomes in zero-emissions mobility, and begin the process of designing a transportation needs assessment and engagement plan.

When the cohort is complete, participating municipalities will have knowledge, strategies, and tools to effectively engage communities. This can ultimately result in better, more locally informed charging infrastructure plans for a range of electrified transportation modes (electric vehicles, micro-mobility, electric buses, shared charging, etc.).

Cohort sessions may include (but are subject to change based on participant priorities):

  • Laying the groundwork for engagement
  • Connecting with communities and co-designing engagement
  • Engagement strategies and transportation needs assessments
  • Designing a transportation future through community knowledge
  • Accountability and continuous engagement
  • Peer consultation.

Note: Clean Cities coalitions will partner with cohort participants to translate cohort learnings to local context and collaborate on strategies to incorporate community input into upcoming community-wide charging infrastructure plans or deployments. Applicants are not required to bring a Clean Cities coalition to the application process if they do not have an existing relationship and can be matched with a coalition after participants are announced.

Expected Outcomes

Local government participants will work with Clean Cities coalitions to identify strategies to incorporate community input into upcoming community-wide charging infrastructure plans or deployments. Following cohort completion, Clean Cities coalitions will have an opportunity to request additional funds to conduct transportation needs assessments or implement other identified engagement strategies in collaboration with their partner municipalities.

Participants

  • Bellevue, Washington
  • Bronzeville Partners, Illinois
  • Centre County Metropolitan Planning Organization, Pennsylvania
  • Durham, North Carolina
  • Fort Collins Utilities, Colorado
  • Greater Portland Council of Governments, Maine
  • Ithaca, New York
  • Missoula, Montana
  • North Miami, Florida
  • Salt Lake County, Utah
  • San Jose, California
  • SEEED, Inc., Tennessee
  • Sovereign Energy, New Mexico
  • Vancouver, Washington

Previous Cohort Participants

Explore the map below to see all past participants of C2C peer-learning cohorts.

Learn about previous cohort topics.

Frequently Asked Questions

Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) is a U.S. Department of Energy-funded program that aims to significantly accelerate the speed and scale of commitments, plans, and actions to increase clean energy, resiliency, and environmental justice by providing direct support to local communities to achieve their own goals. C2C aims to address cross-cutting energy challenges with a community-centered focus.

C2C peer-learning cohorts bring together communities with similar clean energy goals, opportunities, or challenges to:

  • Learn from subject matter experts, who will provide education, best practices, analysis tools, templates, and other resources as needed
  • Exchange case studies, experiences, and insights with other communities that can inform their own activities
  • Gain insights that can help them access upcoming funding or programmatic opportunities
  • Develop proposals, action plans, and strategies to overcome common challenges and enable accelerated clean energy progress.

It is anticipated that cohorts will last approximately 6 months. Participants will have time to share their goals, availability, and preferred cohort duration through a needs assessment to be administered prior to the first cohort meeting.

January Launch Cycle

  • Mid-September: Cohort cycle topics are announced and applications are open
  • Late October: Applications close; evaluation begins
  • Mid-December: Communities are selected and notified
  • January: Cohorts launch

July Launch Cycle

  • Late March: Cohort cycle topics are announced and applications are open
  • Early May: Applications close; evaluation begins
  • Early June: Communities are selected and notified
  • July: Cohorts launch

Local and regional governments, tribes, planning organizations, utilities, community-based organizations, and other public entities in the United States and U.S. territories may be eligible as primary applicants on C2C peer-learning cohorts.

For certain cohort topics, applicants may benefit from including secondary partners (e.g., electric utilities, community-based organizations, and other public agencies) on their application, especially those who may play a significant role in planning, decision-making processes, and implementation efforts.

Some cohort topics may allow other organization types as prime applicants, and those exceptions will be indicated on the cohort description and application.

U.S. territories are invited to apply to participate in C2C offerings. However, governments and organizations based outside the United States are not eligible to participate in C2C peer-learning cohorts. International organizations are encouraged to look into opportunities available through the Clean Energy Solutions Center.

It is important that the right individuals represent their communities through participation in C2C cohorts to ensure a high level of engagement, build organizational capacity, and create long-term, sustainable impacts. Applying organizations will be required to indicate their primary community representative, which must be a member of the applicant organization, on their application. Full-time, permanent employees are preferred, but exceptions may be made in cases in which other team members show that they will support increased institutional knowledge. In either case, the primary community representative should be a team member who has both the technical background and available staff capacity to meaningfully engage with the cohort as well as the authority to make decisions and inform organizational activities.

Applicant communities must indicate at least one dedicated community representative for each cohort but can provide a secondary representative on the cohort application as desired. The primary representative should make an effort to join every cohort meeting, and additional representatives are encouraged to join meetings as well.

For certain cohorts, additional members of your organization (e.g., legal staff or those in charge of procurement) may be asked to join on an ad hoc basis. These specific staff members do not need to be indicated on the application in advance.

The number of communities engaged in each cohort will depend on the number of applications received and the cohort topic. It is estimated that each cohort will consist of 8–15 communities, but in some cases cohorts may be larger or smaller.

It is anticipated that cohorts will last approximately 6 months on average, but some may be shorter or longer depending on the content and time needed to effectively meet participant needs. Participants will have time to share their goals, availability, and preferred cohort duration through a needs assessment to be administered prior to the first cohort meeting.

It is anticipated that each community representative will require approximately 4 hours per month for each cohort, including participation in sessions, limited one-on-one technical assistance, and individual work between sessions.

Communities are welcome to apply for up to two cohorts in a single cohort cycle if they are interested in two selected topics. Applicant communities will be asked on their applications to indicate whether they have the capacity to engage fully in two cohorts simultaneously or if they would like to rank cohorts as first- and second-choice options.

Yes! In both cases, a community can still apply to participate in a cohort. However, if there are more applicants than spots available and other applicants are equally qualified, priority may be given to communities that have not received, or are not currently receiving, support from the U.S. Department of Energy.

No, there is no associated financial commitment for communities.

No direct funding will be made available for participants. However, cohort facilitators may provide assistance identifying funding opportunities if it is of interest to participants.

For inquiries not addressed here, email C2C@nrel.gov.

To apply, fill out the application form on the C2C website with your cohort selections, community background, community representative contact information, and responses to application questions.

Other Program Support

See the C2C program offerings.

Contact

If you have questions about the peer-learning cohorts or the C2C program, email C2C@nrel.gov.


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