OAQDA and Ohio EPA Collaborate to Pursue Federal Funding: What You Should Know

Aug 28, 2023News

Christina O’Keeffe
Ohio Air Quality Development Authority

As part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed in 2022, a new federal program was created that provides great opportunity for Ohio  – the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). It allocates $27 billion in financial assistance through three programs to reduce harmful air pollutants, mobilize financing and private capital, and deliver benefits for low-income and disadvantaged communities. These programs include Solar for All, National Clean Investment Fund, and Clean Communities Investment Accelerator.

As we advance our mission of harmonizing a strong economy and healthy environment for Ohio, OAQDA is actively pursuing federal funding opportunities, like the GGRF, in order to maximize the resources that can benefit Ohio businesses, communities and our residents.

We engaged our friends at the Ohio EPA in this effort as well as a wide range of community organizations and economic development partners across the state to ensure all voices are well represented in our bid for funding. We’re hoping Ohio can receive a significant amount of seed capital from all three programs that can be invested into qualified clean energy projects, mobilizing private capital and public incentives to replenish funding that scales with demand across the state, and producing subsidies that can help those in greatest need within disadvantaged communities access the benefits of these programs. 

OAQDA is currently competing as the lead applicant for the Solar for All program, which allocates a total of $7 billion in up to 60 awards nationally. If approved, the funding will provide a much-needed financial boost to promote a diverse energy portfolio in Ohio, creating a path for residential solar implementation programs, specifically focusing on elevating traditionally underserved communities, such as Appalachia.

This initial Solar for All application, which is due in September 2023, will be shortly followed with a secondary proposal to secure a portion of the $14 billion available through the National Clean Investment Fund. We intend to utilize any awarded funds to support Ohio’s manufacturing and small business industries as well as community-based clean energy initiatives, enhancing sustainability efforts, creating jobs and supporting ESG-compliance goals and requirements.

I firmly believe Ohio is well positioned to receive a significant portion of these funds, allowing us to continue to grow our economy, protect our incredible natural resources and environment, and enhance public health. The success of these initiatives will be through multi-sector partnerships to transform the clean technology market and strengthen our regional and local implementation partners.

Market Needs Research Assessment

To gain a better understanding of the available opportunities as well as potential partners in this federal funding effort, our team engaged an outside research partner to conduct a market needs assessment earlier this year.

The researchers were tasked with evaluating prospects for programmatic growth and identifying potential programs statewide that could benefit from the GGRF. The research also identified market needs as well as four target areas of opportunity where OAQDA could further its impact on the state, including:

The Need

  • Environmental – Since 2000, air emissions by sector (transportation, industrial, commercial and residential) have declined. That’s a positive trend, but there is more work and investment needed to accelerate our collaborative efforts to improve air quality.
  • Economic – Ohioans are bogged down by the high cost of energy, allocating a significant portion of their household income on energy costs. The energy burden for low-income households in Ohio is well above 6%, which is considered high. Additionally, Ohio’s low unemployment rate is not evenly distributed across counties, with certain regions having a higher concentration of unemployed workers.
  • Public Health – There are a number of non-medical risk factors that impact the health of a community including economic stability and the built environment, leading to higher rates of respiratory illnesses such as asthma and COPD and other health issues; all creating a strain on the medical system.

The Opportunity

  • Our vision is to build a healthy Ohio by using clean energy innovation to enhance Ohio’s economic engine, achieving safer, healthier homes and communities, and creating wealth for Ohio families. Specifically, the federal funding would allow us to:
    • Reduce Ohio’s energy burden
    • Support economic growth, specifically in traditionally underserved communities
    • Improve public health outcomes through lowering respiratory ailments among children and older adults
    • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants

The assessment also was a valuable listening exercise to gauge the appetite around the need to further incentivize clean technology initiatives. Through numerous conversations with stakeholders and partners, a common theme surfaced – illustrating broad support for OAQDA to expand its resources and bandwidth to help communities and businesses capitalize on the emerging opportunities.

The market needs assessment was a pivotal first step in our proactive approach to enhance the economic development tools we offer to meet the evolving needs of Ohio’s businesses and organizations. If we are successful in our efforts, I look forward to working collaboratively with our local and state partners to shape new programs to maximize our impact.

We Want to Hear from You

If your organization has programs that support sustainability activities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, you are welcome to be listed as partner in Ohio’s proposal. If you are interested, please reach out directly to us at info@aqda.state.ohio.us. Also, stay up to date on the process by joining our mailing list.

OAQDA’s commitment to improving air quality, enhancing public health and achieving economic prosperity is unwavering, and I look forward to sharing more with you along the way.

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