BlogCommunity Benefits and Labor Standards

Part II: The Department of Energy’s New Approach to Community Benefits Plans

By December 18, 2023December 19th, 2023No Comments

December 18, 2023

Special thanks for this information compiled by our friends at Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm that believes all people and communities should have access to the tools of change, and that everyone has the right to make decisions about the air, water, and land where they live, work, and play.

They are always available to chat with folks interested in learn more about Community Benefits.

Please contact: Meagan Niebler at directly for more information.

Click here to read Part I of our Community Benefits Plans series to learn the basic definitions.

The Department of Energy (DOE) now requires applicants to submit Community Benefits Plans (CBPs) as part of all Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding opportunity announcements (FOAs).

This is what scoring will look like:
Community Benefits Plans are intentionally flexible to generate the best approaches from applicants and their partners. Plans must be specific, actionable, and measureable. In most cases for grants, these plans are scored at 20 percent of the technical merit review of proposals. This 20 percent is split equally into four intersecting sections that work together to ensure project success, the efficient and effective use of taxpayer funds, timely implementation of projects, and the acceleration of private sector uptake in projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. Specific asks for Community Benefits Plans may vary due to the range of project types. For example, large place-based demonstration and deployment projects will require the most robust plans.

This is what they are based on: 
Community Benefits Plans are based on a set of four core policy priorities: investing in America’s workforce; engaging communities, and labor; advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility; and implementing Justice40. These key principles, when incorporated comprehensively into project proposals and applications and executed upon, will help ensure broadly shared prosperity in the clean energy transition.

The DOE has chosen four equally scored categories that project applicants must prioritize in order to be eligible for funding –>

Our friends at RMI help us again to explain this text and elaborate on the DOE’s four priority categories necessary for federal funding applications: 

Community and Labor Engagement:

Describes the applicant’s actions to date and plans to engage with labor unions and community stakeholders (e.g. local governments, Tribal governments, community-based organizations, labor unions, etc.)

Quality Jobs and Workforce Continuity:

Outlines the applicant’s approach to investing in workforce education and training of both new and incumbent workers and ensures jobs are of sufficient quality to attract and retain skilled workers

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA):

Create a DEIA plan including descriptions of the applicant’s strategy to partner with businesses, educational institutions, and workforce training organizations that serve underrepresented communities

Justice40 Initiative:

Describes how the project advances equity, environmental and energy justice priorities, including a commitment to disperse project benefits to “disadvantaged” energy communities

How do I begin to develop a Community Benefits Plan?  

Once you have decided to craft a CBP, it is important to make sure you are creating a strong CBP. RMI provides some tips to keep in mind when drafting a strong CBP: 

  • Demonstrate moving beyond a vision or assessment into actionable goals, outcomes, and implementation steps supported by adequate money, people, and time resources 
  • Include mechanisms for accountability to and transparency with impacted communities 
  • Propose clear metrics to measurable success 
  • Match proposed actions to the needs and priorities of impacted communities 
  • Robustly address all four topic areas 
  • Reduce negative impacts and harm, especially to already overburdened communities 
  • Create quality jobs, equitable access, and invest in workforce development

When an applicant is selected for funding, the CBP will be a contractual obligation and a summary of the CBP will be posted publicly on the DOE’s website for transparency and accountability. The DOE’s CBP template can be downloaded here

As you can see, a CBP is a process that can lead to a community benefit agreement. For more information check out our summit on Community Benefit agreements.  

For even more information on how CBPs apply to the Loan Programs Office, please visit the DOE’s Community Jobs and Justice webpage by clicking here

For more information and FAQ, please visit the DOE’s webpage by clicking here.