PCEF Committee Recommends City Council Approve 66 Clean Energy Grants Totaling $111 Million

Grants large and small from a fund that’s flush with cash.

The Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund, the climate fund stuffed with cash from a tax on large retailers, released its recommendations today for which organizations should get grants to curb carbon emissions, create green jobs, and drive climate investments in low-income communities of color.

The grant committee at PCEF recommended that the Portland City Council approve 66 grants totaling $111 million.

If the council approves the list on July 13, the Community Cycling Center would get $499,419 to give away 60 bikes and provide stipends to Black and Latinx community leaders so they can “engage in transportation-related system improvement discussions.”

Central City Concern would get $5.5 million to upgrade heat and air conditioning at four multifamily properties serving low-income tenants in Old Town.

Street Roots, the newspaper, would get $1.2 million to install a solar array, a battery backup, and a new heating and cooling system at a building it bought recently. The efficiency improvements would cut energy use by 50%, and the solar array would save $3,000 a year, PCEF said.

The largest grant approved by the nine-member PCEF grant committee is $10 million to Community Energy Project Inc. to complete 40 to 50 “deep energy retrofits” annually for five years for low-income homeowners, with a minimum of 50% being people of color.

The second-largest, $9.4 million, is for Hacienda Community Development Corp. to remove gas-powered heating and install solar arrays, heat pumps, cooling devices, and LED lighting.

PCEF said 141 nonprofit organizations submitted 162 applications. The amounts requested ranged from $20,000 to $10 million, with an average of just under $100,000 for planning grants and just over $2 million for implementation grants. The total funding requested was $223 million.

PCEF estimates that grants made in the clean energy and innovation categories will displace 300,000 metric tons of CO2. A round-trip flight from Boston to London and back emits about 1 ton of CO2 per passenger, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Climate Portal.

PCEF is funded by a surcharge on retailers with annual sales of $1 billion or more in the U.S. and $500,000 or more within Portland. The fund is administered by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, which provides staff to the grant-making committee.

The fund is awash in cash. It had assets of $298 million in the fiscal year that started July 1, according to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s proposed budget. That includes a beginning balance of $207 million and new revenue from taxes of $90.5 million. Some of that money is earmarked for grants made last year.

This is the second round of grants that will be made by PCEF. One organization that was snubbed in the first round got a grant this time: Friends of Trees. The tree-planting organization got $96,000 to increase “access to hands-on urban forestry training for BIPOC individuals and provide a pathway to well-paying jobs in the forestry sector.”