CEO’s Report: Lessons learned from other public power utilities

March 6, 2024

Stories of funding opportunities prove success is possible

We recently returned from the American Public Power Association Legislative Rally where public power officials from across the country descended on our nation’s capital to discuss issues of importance with lawmakers.

During our time there, a lot of buzz was heard about a potential government shutdown, which fortunately, was avoided.

We were lucky to meet with many staff members as well as representatives from APPA. We even got to meet up with a former Heartland intern who now works for Congressman Dusty Johnson.

Similar to last year, many of our meetings focused on the variety of funding opportunities still available through the Department of Energy and other federal agencies. We also heard a success story from our friends at Frontier Energy about how they successfully secured a grant for a municipal customer in Minnesota.


Community grants available

Frontier Energy continues providing updates twice per month to Heartland Energy customers on funding opportunities available both through federal and state programs.

They do a great job of keeping tabs on these funding announcements including application requirements, qualifications and deadlines.


Just this week Frontier presented on the local government energy program – Communities Sparking Investment in Transformative Energy (C—SITE) Funding Opportunity.

This opportunity provides approximately $18 million in financial awards and technical assistance to advance community identified energy priorities.

Eligible projects may include building efficiency and/or electrification, electric transportation, energy infrastructure upgrades, workforce development, and more.

These awards will deliver long-term local economic development and community revitalization opportunities. Awarded communities will receive comprehensive technical assistance from experts to help facilitate the development and implementation of projects or programs.

The application deadline for this program is May 21. Two webinars will be held this month, on March 7 and 21, to provide information about the program. You can learn more by visiting this link:

We do know that partnerships are highly encouraged, so if you think you may have an eligible project, please let us know and we will do our best to facilitate a partnership with other Heartland Energy customers.


Success is possible

During our time in D.C., we had the opportunity to sit down with Sara Mathias, senior government relations director for APPA.

She provided a lot of useful information on what APPA has learned in the two plus years since money from the IIJA and IRA began rolling out.

Most importantly, she relayed the message that success is possible. 

DOE Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships (GRIP) Program

Nearly $450 million was awarded to public power communities and utilities through the GRIP Program during the first round of the program. The Round 2 concept papers were due in January, but there is sure to be another round of funding if you have a project you think may fit the bill for this award.

  1. Grid Resilience Utility & Industry Grants – supports investments to reduce impacts of extreme weather and natural disasters, including wildfires, floods, hurricanes, extreme heat or cold, storms, or any other event that can cause a disruption to the power system.
  2. Smart Grid Grants – supports deployment of smart grid technology that increases the flexibility, efficiency, and reliability of the electric power system.
  3. Grid Innovation Program – funding to one or more states, tribes, local governments, or public utility commissions for projects, in collaboration with the electric sector, to deploy innovative approaches to transmission, storage, and distribution infrastructure to increase resilience and reliability.

If you’re interested in learning more about the public power projects funded by this program, visit the following links: Chattanooga, TN (Grid Resilience Utility & Industry), Lake Worth Beach, FL (Smart Grid Grants) and Kaukauna, WI (Grid Innovation Program).


Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Discretionary Grant Program

The CFI Program is a competitive grant program to deploy electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and other alternative fueling infrastructure projects in urban and rural communities in publicly accessible locations.

Units of local government are eligible to apply. Groups of entities are also eligible.

The city of Kings Mountain, NC received over $800,000 to build 34 EV charging ports at five public parking areas including at a city hall, a central business district, public works facility and parking lots near the interstate.

The city of Columbia, MO received $3.6 million to build 44 new EV chargers at two parking garages, a public library, and the regional airport. Funds will also be used for project planning, communications, engagement and public education.


Key takeaways

Mathias highlighted lessons learned by utilities and APPA after working through some of the grant application processes.

  • Know your Why: It is key to communicate in your application why you want to do the project and how it will benefit your utility and your community. It is important to quantify metrics when possible. How will a funded project impact those you serve?
  • Community Engagement Matters: It is important to work with local groups who will directly benefit from the project. Get their buy-in at the beginning of the application process and work together to show the positive impact.
  • Find Partners: It is always recommended to apply with a partner or partners when possible. Being a Heartland Energy customer can prove to be beneficial as we can connect you with other utilities that may be looking to apply for a similar project. Frontier Energy has also been keeping track of utilities’ interest in certain programs.

APPA recently published a podcast highlighting lessons learned from the DOE Funding Program Application Process. I encourage you to give it a listen.

I also encourage you to participate in the webinars put on by Frontier Energy. Heartland Energy Chief Communications Officer Ann Hyland sends out the meeting information, as well as recordings of the meetings. If you aren’t getting this communication, reach out to her today to stay in the know.

There is a wealth of programs available. This is the best way to ensure you are aware of what is out there and determine if your project may be a fit for funding.