In August 2023, the Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Renewable Energy Siting through Technical Engagement and Planning (R-STEP) program to expand the decision-making capacity and expertise of state and local governments around large-scale renewable energy planning, siting, and permitting. The R-STEP program is now accepting applications for the creation of new, or the expansion of existing, state-based programs or initiatives that improve renewable energy siting processes at the state and local levels.
The R-STEP program is managed by ENERGYWERX in partnership with DOE, a collaboration made possible through an innovative Partnership Intermediary Agreement set up by the DOE's Office of Technology Transitions. This agreement enables ENERGYWERX to broaden DOE’s engagement with innovative organizations and non-traditional partners, facilitating the rapid development, scaling, and deployment of clean energy solutions. ENERGYWERX is facilitating this Assessment Event (AE) to identify Collaboratives to expand state and local capacity on large-scale renewable energy siting and planning.
Through this R-STEP Assessment Event, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is requesting applications from state-based collaboratives (Collaboratives) aiming to create or expand existing state-based programs or initiatives that improve renewable energy planning, communication tools, and siting processes. R-STEP will also serve as a platform for Collaboratives to share learnings and best practices with other stakeholders.
A single application should be submitted by each Collaborative or team of organizations interested in working together. DOE highly encourages state energy offices (or equivalent state agencies) and university extension offices to lead or participate in applications but recognizes that the organizations best suited to perform these activities will vary from state to state. Other organizations that could play a key role could include, but are not limited to, tribal governments, universities, non-governmental organizations, and community-based organizations. DOE also recommends that teams include organizations familiar with the needs of local communities in the state, organizations with experience providing educational or technical assistance services to local communities on technical subjects, and organizations with technical expertise on renewable energy siting topics (e.g., environmental impacts, tax policies, land use, zoning ordinance development). DOE will not select more than one application from a single state.
Applicants are encouraged to include organizations with technical expertise as a part of the project team. Selected awardees will also be eligible to receive additional Technical Assistance (TA) from other leading experts, separate from the team’s budget. Applicants should highlight topic areas where additional TA will be necessary because expertise is lacking as part of the project team. DOE will strive to provide TA across awardees equitably based on TA requests from awardees and funding availability.
Applications should 1) focus on plans to establish or expand a state-level initiative that improves decision-making by state, local, and/or Tribal governments on large-scale renewable energy planning, siting, and permitting; 2) prioritize community engagement both to identify local needs and disseminate technical resources; and 3) be submitted by cross-disciplinary Collaboratives with experience engaging local communities and technical expertise on siting issues.
Applicants can request up to $2 million to execute proposed activities over the course of up to 3 years (36 months).
Updated October 26 – DOE may request to virtually meet with applicants during submission review
Updated October 26 – Anticipated selection early 2024
September 22, 2023 - Q&A from IW/OSS added below. Additional Frequently Asked Questions have been added to the bottom of the page.
September 28, 2023 - FAQ section was updated. Changes are highlighted below.
Informational Webinar/Objective Strategic Session (IW/OSS) [September 11, 2023]: DOE will provide further details about the R-STEP opportunity. Potential performers have the opportunity to better understand the scope, scale, and intent of the Assessment Event and ask questions of the Government Stakeholders. The optional, virtual IW/OSS will take place on September 11, 2023 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM ET.
Office Hours [October 11, 2023]: Interested applicants have the opportunity to ask additional questions of DOE on October 11, 2023, from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM ET.
September 12, 2023 – November 3, 2023 (5:00 PM ET)
Phase 1 – Informational Webinar/Objective Strategic Session (IW/OSS) [September 11, 2023]: DOE will provide further details about the R-STEP opportunity. Potential performers have the opportunity to better understand the scope, scale, and intent of the Assessment Event and ask questions of the Government Stakeholders. The optional, virtual IW/OSS will take place on September 11, 2023 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM ET.
Phase 2 – Project Applications Open [September 12, 2023 to November 03, 2023]: Interested Collaboratives are to submit one (1) application for DOE review. Additional information on what will be required for submission can be found here.
Phase 2a – Teaming Partners: To facilitate the formation of teams, R-STEP is establishing an online Teaming Partner List where organizations can express interest in partnering with others and share contact information. If you are interested in being added to the teaming partner list and having your information shared with respondents, please click here to complete this form no later than November 3, 2023. By submitting a request to be included on the Teaming Partner List, the requesting organization consents to the publication of its contact information. By enabling and publishing the Teaming Partner List, EERE is not endorsing, sponsoring, or otherwise evaluating the qualifications of the individuals and organizations that are identifying themselves for placement on this Teaming Partner List. EERE will not pay for the provision of any information, nor will it compensate any applicants or requesting organizations for the development of such information.
To access the list of teaming partners, please click here and use the password: TEAMING.
Phase 2b – Office Hours [October 11, 2023]: Interested applicants have the opportunity to ask additional questions of DOE on October 11, 2023, from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM ET.
Phase 3 – Government Review and Selection [November 3, 2023 to Early 2024]: DOE will select respondents/submissions with the highest likelihood of satisfying their needs. Selection criteria can be found here. All respondents will receive a selection or non-selection notification in early 2024.
Phase 4 – Path Forward [Anticipated Early 2024]: Over the Period of Performance (not to exceed 3 years), DOE seeks regular (once per quarter) check-ins with selected organizations to receive progress updates, address questions, or provide feedback as appropriate. Additionally, during this time, DOE will also consider and evaluate requests for additional technical assistance. Applicants may also be asked to participate in webinars, workshops, or other state-to-state information sharing sessions. The intent is for selectees to receive a formal Business-to-Business (B2B) Research and Development Agreement (RDA) and Statement of Effort (SOE) as a sub-award (15 U.S. Code, Section 3715) from ENERGYWERX. However, after potential discussions with DOE, successfully negotiated awards may fall under (but are not limited to) alternate mechanism of awards/interactions with any combination of these categories:
Phase 4a – Technical Assistance Provider Assessment Effort: Collaboratives selected to receive funding from R-STEP will also be eligible to receive technical assistance from experts in the field. Technical assistance providers will be identified through an assessment even to be conducted in early 2024.
Phase 5 – Effort Underway [February/March 2024 to February 2027] – Over the Period of Performance (not to exceed 3 years), DOE seeks regular (once per quarter) check-ins with selected organizations to receive progress updates, address questions, or provide feedback as appropriate. Additionally, during this time, DOE will also consider and evaluate requests for additional technical assistance. Applicants may also be asked to participate in webinars, workshops, or other state-to-state information sharing sessions.
What is an Objective Strategic Session (OSS)?
Interested participants join a virtual, open forum session to engage with Government Partners, Subject Matter Experts (SME), and other potential performers regarding the Government’s desired focus area(s) of interest.
What is an Assessment Event (AE)?
DOE submits unique problems to be solved. As its innovation hub, ENERGYWERX utilizes its ecosystem and market research to attract best-of-breed submissions to solve those problems. Subsequently, DOE reviews and selects participants with the highest value to satisfy their needs to enter into agreement negotiations.
Note: All Assessment Events (AEs) conducted through ENERGYWERX have the potential to result in monetary awards and/or agreements.
Q: Will a municipal application be competitive for this grant?
A: The R-STEP program is designed to build capacity at the state level so that multiple local municipalities can benefit. DOE anticipates supporting state-based Collaboratives that could include but are not limited to state energy offices, Governor’s offices, Extension offices, universities, non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, and other organizations. An application designed to improve the siting capabilities of a single municipality is not likely to be competitive.
Q: Can multiple states apply under one collaborative?
A: There are no restrictions on regional or multi-state Collaboratives. However, applicants should carefully consider and discuss the challenges associated with the variability in permitting processes, community needs, and deployment targets between the states of interest.
Q: What types of organizations can lead an application?
A: DOE highly encourages state energy offices (or equivalent state agencies) and university extension offices to lead or participate in applications but recognizes that the organizations best suited to perform these activities will vary from state to state. Other organizations that could play a key role include, but are not limited to, Tribal governments, universities, non-governmental organizations, and community-based organizations.
Lead applicants must be able to develop or expand state-wide programs that can be leveraged by many communities within the state.
Q: What types of organizations are NOT allowed to lead an application?
A: DOE will not consider applications led by for-profit organizations, developers of renewable energy facilities, or national laboratories. These organizations may be partners in Collaboratives.
Q: What technologies are eligible?
A: Awards under R-STEP should seek to improve state and local community decision-making capacity related to the planning, siting, and permitting of large-scale renewable energy projects in places where renewable energy siting and permitting is controlled at the state or local level (e.g., on private lands, state lands or state waters). Collaboratives should focus primarily on solutions for large-scale wind and solar technologies, although project activities focusing on other large-scale renewable energy technologies (e.g., battery storage, geothermal, waterpower) are allowable. Projects that focus on energy efficiency programs, distributed energy sources, or transmission infrastructure are not of interest.
Q: Are partners required or can I apply alone? Is there a limit to the number of partners per application?
A: There are no requirements for the number of organizations in a Collaborative. However, as detailed in the Submission Guidance, successful Collaboratives will be cross-disciplinary and have experience facilitating stakeholder engagement and providing technical assistance on technical issues to local communities. DOE recognizes that the organizations best suited to lead or participate in a Collaborative will vary from state to state. Applicants should justify why their Collaborative is best suited to meet the stated R-STEP goals.
There is no limit to the number of project partners on an application.
Q: Are you accepting multiple applications per state?
A: Yes, but DOE will not award more than one application per state. Tribal-led applications will be considered separate from the state in which they are located.
Q: Can multiple states apply together? (Regional applicable)
A: There are no restrictions on regional or multi-state Collaboratives. However, applicants should explain why working across states would meet the stated R-STEP goal and how variability in permitting processes, community needs, and deployment targets between the states will be addressed.
Q: What is difference between the independent Technical Assistance Providers vs. Individuals/organizations an applicant would include as part of Collaborative?
A: Applicants are encouraged to include organizations with technical expertise on large-scale renewable energy planning, siting, and permitting as part of their project team.
Collaboratives awarded will also be eligible to receive additional Technical Assistance (TA) from other leading experts. This additional TA will be provided using funds separate from the Collaborative budgets. Applicants should highlight topic areas where additional TA will be necessary because expertise is lacking as part of the project team. DOE has a limited amount of additional funding to provide additional TA to awardees and all additional TA requests may not be fulfilled.
Q: Can one organization apply on multiple applications?
A: Yes. Applicants are encouraged to include organizations with technical expertise on large-scale renewable energy planning, siting, and permitting as part of their project team. An organization may apply be a part of more than one Collaborative.
Q: Who would own the IP for newly developed resources, processes, products, etc.?
A: DOE does not envision patentable IP being developed under R-STEP. In general, awardees may assert ownership or copyright for data, software, and other copyrightable materials developed under R-STEP, but DOE and the U.S. government will retain unlimited rights to use, reproduce, and distribute that data or software to the public.
Q: Can awardees recommend improvements to state and local government regulatory/approval processes for renewable energy projects?
A: No. Federal law (18 USC 1913) prohibits the use of federal funds for lobbying government officials at all levels of government about any legislation, law, policy or appropriation, unless expressly authorized by Congress. In addition, policy work is inherently governmental. Collaboratives funded through R-STEP therefore cannot use DOE funds to advance or advocate for specific policy changes. Collaboratives can, however, use DOE funds to develop general best practices, or work with authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) to evaluate the potential effects of current or potential future policies related to renewable energy planning, siting and permitting, provided they do not recommend or otherwise advocate for specific policy changes with those AHJs.
Q: Are there any IT or data specific requirements necessary for an applicant to meet?
A: DOE encourages all applicants to adhere to cybersecurity best practices and coordinate within their collaborative on how to implement these in their proposed work, but there are no specific data security requirements associated with R-STEP awards. That said, DOE may require an awardee to submit a cybersecurity plan for projects involving information technology, if any. Please note that ENERGYWERX administers R-STEP under a Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) with DOE. Like the PIA, the intent is for awards (from ENERGYWERX, i.e., subawards) made to collaboratives under R-STEP to be transactions authorized under 15 U.S.C. 3715, which are not a procurement, grant, cooperative agreement or loan. DOE’s interim pilot guide on PIAs is available here: DOE Partnership Intermediary Agreement | Department of Energy. However, as phase 4 states, “after potential discussions with DOE, successfully negotiated awards may fall under (but are not limited to) alternate mechanism[s] of awards/interactions,” such as contracts and cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs).