Beneficial Electrification League

Rural Energy Funding Demand Insights & Update

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Demand for DOE Rural Grants Exceeds Supply by a Factor of Ten!

Just prior to this Labor Day, the US Department of Energy announced the results of Pre-Application decisions to applicants who applied for the $50 million grant funding opportunity for the Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) program for small communities (of 10,000 or fewer people). DOE received 659 applications, rejected 600 applications, and moved 59 to the next round. This demonstrates the robust demand and stiff competition for energy project funding ($1.9B in applications for $50M in funding).

We are seeing this as a trend across federal grants. For example, EPA’s 2022 Clean School Bus rebate program received $4B in applications for its 2022 Clean School Bus Rebate program for what was originally planned as $500M of funding (which ultimately was raised to $965M due to high demand).

The good news is that USDA's PACE and New ERA programs are funded at approximately 200 times this round's DOE funding ($10.7B versus $50M), and we believe that most of our cooperatives and municipal utility stakeholders focused on the USDA programs this summer. As noted below, our last webinar on USDA's New ERA program is September 6 at 3 PM ET. BEL will follow up with questions about the interplay between the two programs during the webinar.

Reminder Join us on September 6 for Final USDA New ERA Webinar

Join us for a final USDA New ERA webinar on Wednesday, September 6, at 3 PM ET with Senior USDA staff on the $9.7B New ERA program to discuss final questions, latest FAQs, and next steps for letters of interest and applications.

Register for Webinar

Electric School Buses Start Rolling Out –

and BEL Rolls Out to Talk Buses with Stakeholders

Image above: photos from events in Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, and DC, as BEL has worked tirelessly to ensure those who choose to roll out electric buses have good experiences.

With CoBank's support, BEL joined with co-op and municipal utilities across the county to spur more than a billion dollars in electric school bus rebate applications to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus Program. In August 2022, nearly 2,000 applicants sought to participate in the first round of rebates. More than 40% of the applications were from rural school districts! As a result, brand new electric school buses are rolling out of factories and into their new school communities as the first buses funded by the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program rebates are delivered. 


BEL is expecting the EPA to open the second round of rebate funding soon, and in November, the agency plans to announce grant program awards. 


Over the past year, BEL has been at events discussing opportunities and challenges around electric bus deployment in Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia, Kansas, Indiana, Montana, Oklahoma, and more, focusing on how electric providers can work to ensure that consumers have a good experience with electric buses as they are deployed across the country. Continuing the trend, BEL will join EPA Region 5 staff at Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services' and St. Croix Electric Cooperative’s Powered by Electricity Event in River Falls, Wisconsin, on September 23 as part of National Drive Electric Week and at the Ohio School Boards Association meeting September 13. As we do at many of our events, we plan to have a school bus at the Virginia Electrification Leadership Summit, announced below.


We will also be talking about electric school buses at the Rural Renaissance Road Show in Bentonville, Arkansas, October 25-27, and we will be announcing several other events over the course of the next month.

To address a key strategy for electric school bus deployment success, BEL recently created a one-page document to urge schools to speak with utility partners early and often as they decide whether to deploy electric school buses, and we are working with EPA and Edison

Electric Institute to create more in-depth resources on this topic.

Virginia Electrification Leadership Summit Announced

BEL is announcing the Virginia Electrification Leadership Summit on November 9 at Virginia Tech with the support of BEL Sponsors Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. BEL expects to announce additional state and regional meetings in September.

Stay tuned for more event announcements this fall, and reach out to learn about sponsorship or hosting events in your region.

Register for Event

Key Funding Monitoring Updates

We've been working hard to identify the best options for your organization to pursue. These are the top three we're watching that have action items in the upcoming month. Please reach out if you'd like to talk! (This information is repeated from our August newsletter sent last week.)

USDA New ERA Program

The USDA RUS New ERA letters of interest are due on September 15, and BEL continues to assist stakeholders who are putting the finishing touches on billions' worth of letters of interest. Recently, USDA underscored in a new FAQ accessible here that ensuring smaller-scale US farmers see benefits from USDA investments is a priority for the Department. Strategies to achieve this include creating ongoing revenue streams for small-scale farmers from energy production revenue or land leases (in addition to lower energy prices). If you have the ability to include a sentence or two in your LOI in cases where benefits will go to local farmers, it is something that may be relevant to USDA. BEL would be happy to discuss strategies for incorporating community benefits into your letters of interest.

DOE Energy Future Grants – New Opportunity to Join BEL Application Cohort

BEL is assisting several groups of city, town, and municipal electric and cooperative stakeholders to apply for a Department of Energy (DOE) Office of State and Community Energy Programs Energy Future Planning Grant. These collaborations are enhanced by increased participation across transportation, building, and utility sectors within communities. Please let us know if you’d be interested in joining the application cohort by emailing Applications are due September 30.

DOE 40101(d) Grid Resilience State and Tribal Grants

More than half of US states have been allocated funding for resilience and are setting up their programs to disperse funds. Here is the information on what was allocated to your state. BEL is working with small utilities and Tribal entities to secure funding under this program. If you need assistance and expertise on this program, please reach out to

Thank you, BEL sponsors! 

For information on sponsorship of BEL, please click below.

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BEL is a 501(c)3 organization with Silver status as a charitable organization on Guidestar. 

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