NRECA wants to help interested electric cooperatives apply for millions of dollars in federal funding under a new Department of Energy program that seeks to spur electric vehicle use in rural and low-income areas.
The program is designed for projects that cost $8 million to $12 million and go far beyond installing EV chargers in the service area of a single distribution co-op, said Brian Sloboda, NRECA's director of consumer solutions.
It would involve projects that encompass at least one state or, more likely, a region, he said.
“It's a great chance for a couple of G&Ts or a large number of distribution co-ops to collaborate on something," Sloboda said.
The DOE would fund 50% of the cost of the project, leaving co-ops and any community partners to pay the rest.
To qualify, participants must agree to install EV chargers that serve apartment complexes, where residents typically have no place to plug in EVs. They also must agree to develop charging networks—or expand existing ones—in underserved communities that are rural, low-income or have minimal access to EVs.
Beyond that, co-ops could choose from a variety of other projects, including teaming up with school districts on electric school buses, with cities or counties on electric transit buses or with commercial co-op members on electric freight trucks. NRECA is interested in helping co-ops pursue all those options, as well as projects that send power from electric buses to the grid or to buildings.
For example, Sloboda said, a Missouri co-op wants to use an electric school bus to provide electricity to a nursing home during power outages.
Other options include installing charging stations near tourist destinations, such as historic sites and recreation areas. There also are opportunities to help provide co-op members with jobs by offering EVs for ride-sharing programs or food delivery services.
“The DOE is looking for multiple layers in the projects it funds," Sloboda said. “Not every co-op would need to do the same thing. There's something for everyone."
The funding program is highly competitive, and only three to five proposals will be chosen. Winners will have about three years to complete their projects.
“If you're in a rural area and you've been trying to figure out how to try something big and innovative on EVs, this is a great way to do that," Sloboda said. “You can partner with NRECA and local groups and really start to build tomorrow's infrastructure today."
Check out an advisory with more information on the funding opportunity; interested co-ops should contact Sloboda by May 7 at Brian.Sloboda@nreca.coop.