The Challenge: Prioritize Underserved Populations in our Clean Energy Future
Low-income Massachusetts households spend a disproportionately high percentage of their income on energy, while renters, low-income, and non-English-speaking households are less likely to use energy efficiency incentives. Similarly, solar adoption lags for renters and minority communities. And yet, all residents need and deserve to be part of our collective clean energy future.
About EmPower Massachusetts
EmPower Massachusetts offers multiple stages of investment in communities and community-based organizations so that they can explore, develop, and implement program models or projects that provide access to the benefits of clean energy for previously underserved populations. This MassCEC program crowd-sources new and innovative ideas, then helps put them into action. EmPower offers funding to meet the following goals:
- Build organizational capacity ($5,000 to $25,000 grants)
- Explore innovative solutions ($5,000 to $25,000 grants)
- Implement solutions ($50,000 to $150,000 grants)
How Do I Get Started?
Not sure where to begin? Start with this list of recommendations and the associated table of contents to learn more!
- Review program goals (above)
- Review EmPower Grant Opportunities & Funding Schedule
- Discover Who’s Eligible
- Get connected! For more details on virtual office hours, setting up a call or joining our slack channel, visit our Resources and Support Section
- New to clean energy? Review our Clean Energy 101 Primer and our additional Resources and Support
- Check out what other awardees are doing. View the Awardee Map or read our EmPower Blog.
EmPower Grant Opportunities
Innovation and Capacity-Building Grants
- Innovation and Capacity Building Grants are "seed" funding for the exploration of innovative ideas for potential program models or projects, including the opportunity to build community or organizational capacity.
- What is Capacity Building? Learn from the National Council of Non-Profits.
- Among other purposes, this funding could be used for
- staff time devoted to program concept development or refinement
- technical studies needed to move projects forward
- costs for a grant-writer, accountant, lawyer, or other professional services
- community engagement expenses
- Grant range: $5,000-$25,000 (up to $50,000 in some cases)
- Implementation grants provide funding to implement community-based programs or projects that increase the access to the benefits of clean energy to and/or reduce energy burden on previously underserved population priority groups.
- Applications should identify specific goals and outcomes for energy access for the targeted priority population.
- Grant range: $50,000-$150,000
Two application periods are available for each grant opportunity: Fall 2022 and Spring 2023.
A schedule is provided in the adjacent table. See additional details in the application materials, below.
Application period opens
Friday, July 29, 2022
Fall: October 21, 2022
Interviews (when applicable)
Within a month of application deadline
Within 2-3 months of each application deadline
Resources and Support
We know there are many ways to approach these opportunities and want to ensure you have access to resources that support whichever challenge you are tackling or opportunity you are pursuing.
- Clean Energy 101 Primer
- Program Overview Video
- Grantee Guide on Developing Metrics and Outcomes (source: Barr Foundation)
Get connected, stay engaged, ask questions
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or to set up a call with the EmPower team.
Sign up for virtual "Office Hours":
- November 16th ,2022, at 12:00pm Register
Join our Slack channel:
The EmPower Slack channel is a great space for networking and collaboration between organizations. We will also be posting programmatic updates on this channel. Continue the conversation on Slack!
Learn more about clean energy programs and incentives to discover the technology(ies) best suited to your potential program
- SMART (Solar PV Production Incentive)
- MassSave (Clean heating and cooling rebates, HEAT Loan, Connected Solutions, Income Eligible Programs, Enhanced Residential Program - Income Eligible)
- MassCEC’s Internship & Vocational Internship Programs
- MassCEC's Workforce Equity Programming
- Clean Energy Lives Here
- LEAN (Low Income Affordability Network)
Learn more about Massachusetts Environmental Justice (EJ) policy
- MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs - Environmental Justice
- Use the EJ Map viewer to identify locations that meet the 2020 EJ population criteria. The Map Viewer also contains several different tabs to view maps with additional data to the EJ population criteria, such as Languages Spoken in Massachusetts, or the Legacy of Redlining in Massachusetts.
Explore data to further inform your ideas
What if my organization does not have experience with clean energy?
Experience with clean energy or related topics is not a requirement under the program. We encourage community-based organizations that don’t have this experience to apply to the program. Please reach out to us so that we can determine what kind of assistance or education we can provide and include these details on future applications.
How can I determine if the population I’d like to support through my program idea is a Priority Group population?
The for the FY22 Program (now closed), the following populations were considered population Priority Groups; although these criteria are subject to change, we anticipate they will be the same for the FY23 round.
- “Environmental Justice Populations” as defined by the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Environmental Justice Policy. https://www.mass.gov/service-details/environmental-justice-policy
- “Environmental Justice (EJ) Population” means a neighborhood where 25 percent of the households have an annual median household income that is equal to or less than 65 percent of the statewide median income, or 25% of its population is Minority or identifies as household that has English Isolation.
- “Minority” refers to individuals who identify themselves as Latino/Hispanic, Black/African American, Asian, Indigenous people, and people who otherwise identify as non-white.
- “Low-income” means median household income at or below 65 percent of the statewide median income for Massachusetts, according to federal census data.
- “English isolation” refers to households that are English Language Isolated according to federal census forms, or do not have an adult over the age of 14 who speaks only English or speaks English very well.
- Renters (primarily residential)
- Communities or individuals disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, by the fossil-fuel based energy system, or other environmental hazards.
Two possible ways to qualify your population are to
- review the updated Environmental Justice Map Viewer; or
- review this updated document which outlines communities and their percentage of EJ census block groups.
Your application narrative can explain how you have used these tools or otherwise determined a group's eligibility.
Does my non-profit/community-based organization have to have 501c3 status to be considered eligible?
No! Non-profits and other community-based organizations (or individuals) are listed as an eligible type of applicant, but that does not mean your organization needs formal 501c3 status.
Potential applicants who do not have the ability to hire staff or receive funds should consider forming a partnership with another group that can act as a fiscal agent. If you need assistance in finding a fiscal agent, contact MassCEC to see if we can help.
Explore the 32 exciting projects supported by MassCEC's EmPower Massachusetts in 2022. Read the press release, or check out the map below. On the map, you can use the +/- buttons to zoom in, use your mouse to pan, and use the scrollbar at the right to see the full list of awardees. Click on the awardee's name or location pin to get more information about their project, including excerpts from their application.
Note: The points depicted on the map locate the address of the lead organization for each project, and are not necessarily representative of the area(s) in which the projects themselves are operating. The Project location listed for each project provides this information.
EmPower Mass Blog
Read these posts for a more detailed discussion of our work.
Project Spotlight: Nantucket Revolving Clean Energy Fund, September 13, 2022
Program Overview: Innovating Access to Clean Energy Benefits, July 22, 2021