How Utilities Can Mitigate Risks through Robust Community Benefits Plans

Utilities Risks Community Benefits Plans Clean energy projects

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in 2022 heralded historic investments in climate and energy and supercharged the shift toward clean energy. Critically, policymakers included new and expanded funding programs and established new incentives intended to ensure that everyone shares in the benefits of a clean energy economy — especially rural places and energy communities (places that have been historically dependent on fossil fuel industries for their economic livelihoods). And as part of applications for federal funding, many federal agencies now require Community Benefits Plans (CBPs) as a way to ensure that communities and local stakeholders have a voice in the process of developing a new project and can share in the positive impacts stemming from the project.

One of the biggest opportunities for new, large-scale economic development in energy communities is the Energy Infrastructure Reinvestment (EIR) program, which offers $250 billion in low-cost financing for projects that make use of operating or legacy fossil fuel infrastructure. As with most DOE programs, EIR applicants are required to write a CBP that explains how the project will support the local community. Developing a comprehensive and community-centered CBP requires working with communities to ensure their voices are part of the project planning process, thereby reducing project risk and increasing the prospect of loan repayment — not only making for a stronger EIR application but also helping ensure the success of the project.

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