In 2009, the Denali Commission released a public solicitation entitled the Emerging Energy Technology Grant (EETG). This competitive solicitation, with a total funding opportunity of $4 million, targeted alternative and renewable emerging energy technology proposals from Alaskan applicants. The Commission’s goal was to develop emerging energy technology that has the potential of widespread deployment in Alaska and has the long-term goal of reducing energy costs for Alaskans. In total, 50 applicants applied to the first round of the solicitation, requesting over $29 million in funding. Of these proposals, 15 were selected for a second round review, with nine proposals eventually being selected for awards.
Highlights of the EETG
The Denali Commission
Introduced by Congress in 1998, the Denali Commission is an independent federal agency designed to provide critical utilities, infrastructure, and economic support throughout Alaska.1 With the creation of the Denali Commission, Congress acknowledged the need for increased inter-agency cooperation and focus on Alaska's remote communities. Since its first meeting in April 1999, the Commission is credited with providing numerous cost-shared infrastructure projects across the State that exemplify effective and efficient partnership between federal and state agencies, and the private sector.
Denali Commission Energy Program
Recognizing the critical role energy plays in the quality of life and economic development of Alaska’s communities, the Denali Commission has made energy its primary infrastructure theme since 1999. The Energy Program primarily funds design and construction of replacement bulk fuel storage facilities, upgrades to community power generation and distribution systems, alternative-renewable energy projects, and some energy cost reduction projects. The Commission works with the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA), Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC), Alaska Power and Telephone and other partners to meet rural communities’ fuel storage and power generation needs.
Development of the EETG
The development of the EETG came from a host of identified needs and gaps in funding availability in Alaska. In particular, the Commission identified that:
- There is no established mechanism within Alaska to fund emerging energy technology projects.
- There is no established mechanism within Alaska to partner with national incentives for emerging energy technology.
- Emerging energy technology is a vital step to the future development of energy independence.
- Emerging energy technology and demonstration projects have a high associated risk of failure, limiting venture capital, loans, or other means of private investment.
- Alaska’s bountiful renewable and alternative energy resources, combined with the acute energy needs of Alaskan communities and accompanying economics, provides a great opportunity for energy technology demonstration.
By nature, emerging energy technology carries must risk for investment. Much focus, therefore, was given to data analysis, collection, reporting, and “lessons learned” for each project, with results being made available to the public. This information will be invaluable for future energy project development, regardless of success or failure of a specific project.
It was intended that the Commission funding would provide seed funding, establishing partnerships, momentum, and a track record for future iterations of the solicitation, or similar funding opportunities.
The intended focus of the EETG was on
- Research, development, or demonstration projects designed to (a) test new energy technologies or methods of conserving energy or (b) improve an existing energy technology; and
- Applied research projects that employ energy technology with a reasonable expectation that the technology will be commercially viable in Alaska in not more than five years. The EETG sought to develop emerging alternative and renewable energy technology that had the potential of widespread deployment in Alaska, and that had the potential to reduce energy costs for Alaskans.
The eligibility requirements of this solicitation were intentionally kept simple and included
- Applicants must meet Commission due diligence and reporting criteria2, and follow Commission policies,
- Eligible projects must primarily focus on alternative or renewable energy and meet the intended funding use, and
- eligible applicants include: an electric utility holding a certificate of public convenience and necessity under AS 42.05; an independent power producer; a local government, quasi-governmental entity, or other governmental entity, including a tribal council or housing authority; a business holding an Alaska business license; or a nonprofit organization.
For the purposes of defining eligible project scopes, the following definitions were used:
- "Energy Technology" means technology that promotes, enhances, or expands the diversity of available energy supply sources or means of transmission, increases energy efficiency, or reduces negative energy-related environmental effects. "Energy Technology" includes technology related to renewable sources of energy, conservation of energy, enabling technologies, efficient and effective use of hydrocarbons, and integrated energy systems.
- “Renewable Energy” means energy derived from wind, solar, geothermal, hydrothermal, wave, tidal, river in-stream, or hydropower; low-emission nontoxic biomass based on solid or liquid organic fuels from wood, forest and field residues, or animal or fish products; dedicated energy crops available on a renewable basis; or landfill gas and digester gas.
- “Alternative Energy” refers to (1) energy derived from nontraditional sources or the utilization of traditional sources in a new or unconventional manner; (2) the supplementation, integration, or alteration of an energy system with a new or unconventional process that is not typically reliant on traditional fossil fuels.
Project applications entered a competitive two-round selection process with a review committee of technical and industry experts making selection recommendations to the Commission. In the first round, applicants submitted an abbreviated four-page project proposal summary. The review committee reviewed the proposal summaries and created a short list of applicants for second round consideration. In the second round, selected applicants submitted a robust project proposal and were also required to give a 15 minute presentation, subject to a question-and-answer period by the review committee. Final project selections were made after the second round3.
The intent of this solicitation was cross-cutting and had wide appeal with various funding entities within Alaska and nationally. For this solicitation, the following were partner entities:
- Alaska Energy Authority
- Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority
- Alaska Power Association
- Denali Commission Energy Advisory Committee
- Denali Commission Energy Program Staff
- National Energy Technology Laboratory
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory
The partners to this solicitation were intentionally selected for their 1) technical expertise in energy technology, 2) their programmatic or institutional interest in developing emerging energy technology, and 3) their institutional perspective. Due to the short time frame of program development and implementation, the Denali Commission was the sole financial backer of this solicitation; the partner entities served as members of the review committee, providing technical advice and selection recommendations to the Commission.
The Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP), an energy research group housed under the Institute of Northern Engineering at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, is serving as the program manager of the solicitation, and was not involved in the proposal review or selection process. As the project proposals deal with emerging energy technology and by nature are high risk, high reward, ACEP’s technical knowledge and objective academic management of the projects, specifically for data collection, analysis, and reporting, is a vital component to the intent of the solicitation, i.e., providing lessons learned and recommendations.
One overall trend emerged from this solicitation: many of the proposals featured a technology area that has limited funding opportunity, and for other reasons than the technology being an emerging energy technology. Such areas included:
- Waste and energy (solid waste, biomass, other waste, etc.)
- Alaskan applications of proven international technology
- Electric vehicles for rural and Arctic applications
A similar trend was that several applicants, not the technologies, had limited opportunity for funding. For example, the Seward Sealife Center is an aquarium and is restricted from many federal grants, including federal stimulus opportunities.
First Round Results
Response to the solicitation was extremely positive, with 50 applicants submitting a first round proposal. The total requested funding from the first round was $29.5 million. Of these 50 applicants, 16 were selected for the second round. One applicant withdrew their proposal just prior to the second round deadline, leaving 15 applicants for second round consideration.
Second Round Results
15 applicants submitted a robust project proposal for second round consideration. Total funding requested was $8.5 million, with total project costs equaling $17.9 million. The $9.4 million in cost share was made up of in-kind, cash, and other grant contributions. Of these 15 finalists, 9 were selected for grant awards. The 2009 EETG projects are as follows:
Other EETG Projects
Several other Denali Commission projects, previously funded and in the development phase, were rolled into the EETG program, as the funding goal of these projects closely resembled that of the EETG program; namely, the development of an emerging energy technology for deployment in Alaska focusing on the collection and analysis of project data, economic evaluation, and public dissemination of results.
Future EETG Opportunities
The 2009 EETG solicitation was meant as seed money to demonstrate need and interest for emerging energy technology projects in Alaska. This demonstration has proven successful, providing momentum in the Alaska Legislature for inclusion of SB150 language in SB220.
The Denali Commission's 2010 Draft Work Plan has included match funding for the EETF. This match funding will replace any 2010 Denali Commission EETG solicitation.
The Emerging Energy Technology Fund (EETF) was established by the 2010 passing of Senate Bill 2204. This fund, administered by the Alaska Energy Authority, is financed by appropriations from the state legislature, federal appropriations, and contributions from other sources and is available to utilities, independent power producers, local and tribal governments, Alaskan businesses, and non-profits. In order to receive grants from the fund, the benefiting project must be for the research, development, or demonstration of a new energy or conservation technology or for the improvement of an existing technology, with the reasonable expectation the technology will be commercially viable within 5 years.