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White House to Invest $84.5M in Clean Energy Improvements for K-12 Schools

October 31, 2022 by Dan McCue
(Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The White House plans to spend nearly $85 million to make K-12 schools more energy efficient and lower their energy costs.

According to the Notice of Intent released through the Energy Department, the funding is the first tranche of the Renew America’s Schools grant program created by the bipartisan infrastructure law to provide schools critical energy infrastructure upgrades. 

Through the grant program, DOE will spend $80 million on energy and health improvements in public K-12 schools across the country. 

Additionally, a new DOE prize program will help resource 25 high-need school districts with the training and tools needed to improve how their schools consume energy. 

The investments will address the historic inequities of school facilities, reduce school energy costs, and improve health and learning outcomes for children and staff, while also supporting the promise of bringing good-paying jobs to the community, the administration said. 

“Nearly half of our nation’s school districts — and disproportionately low-income and rural districts — struggle to maintain aging facilities and ensure classrooms are free from health hazards,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in a written statement. 

“These major investments, made possible by President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law will lead to healthier learning environments and lower energy costs so school districts can equitably lead on the clean energy transition,” she said. 

Energy consumption is the second-highest operational expense schools face, often requiring schools to invest in energy-related costs rather than other critical educational needs for students. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2021 Infrastructure Report Card rates our nation’s school facilities in D+ condition, and a June 2020 Government Accountability Office report found that about half of the public school districts are struggling to upgrade and maintain building systems that ensure facilities are free of health hazards. 

The GAO report found that 41% of school districts need to update or replace heating, ventilation and HVAC systems. Districts serving historically disadvantaged communities experience the greatest burden of antiquated school facilities and many lack the resources and expertise needed to seek federal grant funding. 

The Renew America’s Schools grant aims to lower utility costs, improve indoor air quality, and reduce carbon emissions in schools across the country with a focus on rural and high-poverty school districts. 

This investment is the first of its kind from the DOE, and eligible projects will include energy improvements that reduce building operating costs — like new HVAC and ventilation systems, building envelope and lighting projects, and alternative fuel and renewable energy technologies.

Applications for the first round of this grant, with up to $80 million available for schools, will open in November 2022 and close in January 2023. 

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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