Commentary: Energy grants can empower Delaware communities

By Jim Purcell

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has opened our eyes to how intertwined economic, social, and health security can be in our lives.

Our communities are suffering from severe health, economic and social impacts posed by this pandemic. Often overlooked yet still significant and long-lasting are the cash benefits that energy efficiency projects have for low-income communities. Utility costs are a significant burden for low-income communities, even more so with the pandemic.

In Delaware, we have an opportunity to strategically focus efforts and funding to help those low-income individuals. along with businesses who contract and employ workers doing energy efficiency work who may have lost work or were laid off due to the pandemic crisis.

Fortunately, Delaware has funding available for energy efficiency in low-income homes served by Delmarva Power. Through a competitive grant system, these funds will be awarded this year to low-income communities to provide energy efficiency programs and services for Delmarva Power customers.

Jim Purcell

Energize Delaware was selected to facilitate and disburse $4 million in funds designated for low income energy efficient programs for Delmarva Power customers. The funds originated from the Exelon/Delmarva Power Merger Settlement approved by the Delaware Public Service Commission in 2018. 

The Empowerment Grant is set up and managed by a grant manager with Energize Delaware. The initial Large-Scale grant for up to $1 million was launched in January with a due date of April 24.

The next grant will focus on Community-Scale grants of up to $100,000 and will launch in April with a rolling date for application submissions.

A second round of large-scale and community-scale grants will proceed later this year and into early 2021.

What is the Empowerment Grant Program?

These funds are being provided to support capable organizations in delivering energy efficiency programs to low-income ratepayers in Delmarva’s Delaware service territory.   Applicant(s) receiving a grant award will accomplish one or more of the following in the Delmarva Power service area:

·         Increase the energy efficiency of low-income Delaware households, contributing to statewide electric and gas savings.

·         Engage with and inform low-income Delaware households about the benefits of energy efficiency and strategies available to achieve it.

Applicants are asked to develop a comprehensive community-based approach to address energy efficiency issues in low-income housing by mobilizing public and private sector resources, including grassroots, community-based, non-profit, and faith-based organizations. To the greatest extent feasible, the job training, employment, contracting, and other economic opportunities generated by this grant will be directed to low-income persons in Delmarva’s service area.

It’s with great enthusiasm that we will review and get these funds out into the community this summer and fall, and hope they serve not only to bring energy efficiency programs to more Delaware residents, but also help to resuscitate the small business community.

For information about eligibility and how to apply for the Empowerment Grant program go to www.empowergrantde.org.  You can reach the Empowerment Grant office by phone at 302-724-7033 or by email jim.purcell@empowergrantde.org. We are also on Facebook @empowergrantde and Twitter @empowergrantde.

Jim Purcell, grant manager for the Empowerment Grant, is tasked with distributing and monitoring the impact of the funding. Energize Delaware hopes to sustain this type of funding for energy efficiency and create programs to further support access to renewable energy sources for all Delawareans.