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Grid & Storage

U.S. Govt Awards $65 Million for ‘Connected Communities’

The exterior of the Department of Energy in Washington D.C. on Independence Ave captures the reflection of clouds and the sun setting. | Washington, D.C. | Sara Cottle

U.S. Dept. Of Energy Allocates $65 Million for ’Connected Communities’

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced it will provide up to $65 million to projects aimed at expanding the department’s grid-interactive efficient building (GEB) communities network across the country. The funds will go to applicants of the ‘Connected Communities’ (CC) funding opportunity announcement (FOA) first revealed in a February Notice of Intent by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. DOE sought public input through a Request for Information in March.

U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said during an Electric Power Research Institute event in Charlotte, North Carolina, “With today’s announcement, DOE will broaden its capability to evaluate and demonstrate the growing flexibility of one such solution — smart, grid-interactive, efficient buildings — to best serve the needs of building occupants and the grid while reducing energy consumption overall.”

The funding announcement reads, “A Connected Community is a group of grid-interactive efficient buildings with diverse, flexible end use equipment and other distributed energy resources that collectively work to maximize building, community, and grid efficiency. Under this Funding Opportunity Announcement, DOE will select a portfolio of “Connected Community” projects totaling up to $65 million in varying climates, geographies, building types, building vintages, distributed energy resources utility/grid/regulatory structures, and resource bases. Through funding these projects, DOE hopes to find and share technical and market solutions that will increase demand flexibility and energy efficiency.”

The DOE said in the press release that America’s 125 million commercial buildings and homes account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. Energy – and 74 percent of electricity. Connected communities can “leverage the latest advancements in building science” to “more flexibly manage and deploy grid-scale energy efficiency and distributed energy resources,” the department notes.

As part of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) ongoing ‘Connected Neighborhood’ project, DOE researches the energy-maximizing Birmingham, Alabama Power Smart Neighborhood – operational since 2017 – and will begin research on the soon-to-open Georgia Power Smart Neighborhood. An April report from the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory revealed that, compared to other all-electric communities, the Alabama neighborhood consumes 44 percent less energy. The neighborhood has also seen a 34 percent decrease in winter peak hour power demand, which translates into lower utility bills and optimized home functioning. DOE said in the press release that the FOA could create a “five-fold” increase in EERE-supported test communities such as these as it embarks to transform the country’s electric system.

“The integration of emerging technologies and systems is essential to the success of efforts to maximize the effectiveness of advanced building technologies,” said Assistant Secretary for EERE Daniel R. Simmons in the release.

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