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ISEIF grants (Ongoing)

Project History

  • 8/28/2020

    Sol Systems and F&S hosted visitors from Illinois State University today, to initiate development of a Virtual Reality tour of Solar Farm 2.0.

  • 7/31/2020

    Matt Hagamann from Illinois State University (ISU) is leading a team to develop a Virtual Tour of the University of Illinois Solar Farms. In a July 2020 email, he explained:

Description

The Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF) was created to inform and engage Illinois consumers in the transformation to a digital electric grid. ISEIF accomplishes this through funding innovative education, outreach, and research projects in correspondence with smart meter deployment timelines.

Background

From their website (accessed 08-28-2020):

ISEIF was created to provide an opportunity to fund innovative projects in shifting consumer behavior toward energy use. Behavior change on energy is notoriously difficult to accomplish, particularly in the United States, where energy is historically and comparatively inexpensive. Utility companies have typically provided the only such consumer education around smart grid installations, because these installations in other states have typically happened very rapidly. In Illinois the relatively slow pace of smart grid installation and the authorizing statute behind ISEIF, afford an opportunity for creative non-profits (with 501(c)(3) status) to experiment with new ways of reaching consumers, and moving them from passivity about energy use to active engagement, interest and changes in behavior.

ISEIF is a leading foundation dedicated to furthering energy literacy and engagement. Grants are competitive. Each cycle, we receive more applications than we have monies to award funding. ISEIF seeks strong applications that provide education in one or more of the following areas of interest:

  1. Energy Pricing Programs
    • Peak time rebate program
    • Real-time pricing program
  2. Specific Geographical areas
    • ComEd v. Ameren territories
    • More targeted areas within these geographies
  3. Applied Consumer Research
  4. Marketing/Messaging/Communication campaigns
  5. Specific Demographics
    • Low-Income
    • Senior
    • Hard-to-Reach
    • Other
    • Youth
  6. Consumer-Facing Technology
    • Smart thermostats
    • Home energy management devices
    • Smart home devices
    • Technology that utilizes consumer energy usage data from smart meters

This list is intended to outline general areas of interest for this round and to facilitate collaboration by groups with strengths in different areas. Applications may touch on more than one area of interest, or focus on only one, and the list is not intended to be exhaustive.

All projects funded by ISEIF are intended to educate consumers about the smart grid, and the benefits to consumers from enabling technologies and programs, but ISEIF understands that in some communities where smart grid is still very unfamiliar, more general energy education outreach may be necessary (e.g. smart grid may only be a component of the education program).

Applications are also sought from research partners (including universities), and it is possible that the research partners selected for funding will be asked to focus their research on the funded projects being conducted by non-profit grantees.

Collaboration

ISEIF strongly encourages collaborations among non-profits with complementary areas of expertise, including but not limited to collaboration among non-profits and university research partners.  ISEIF will request that grantees pursuing projects in the same geography collaborate after grants are awarded, and will convene all grantees throughout the grant year for purposes of coordination and shared learning.

Geography

The geographic focus for proposal submissions should align with the overall smart grid deployment plan in Illinois, including those areas in which meters have already been deployed according to the most recent ComEd smart meter deployment plan and Ameren smart meter deployment plan.

We recommend applicants examine the descriptions of the areas in the deployment plans, and explain how the proposal relates to these geographical areas. For example, the application might be for an educational program that takes advantage of being placed in a roll-out area, or ahead of the next roll-out, or it might provide more general education in an area not slated for smart meter deployment for another year or two. Applications with clearer connections to existing and near-term roll-out will be most competitive.

Demography: Low-Income, Senior, and Hard-to-Reach Populations

The authorizing statute for ISEIF mandates that 30% of the funding provided support education of low-income consumers, senior citizens, and consumers in hard-to-reach communities. Applicants seeking support in these demographic areas should explain clearly how they know they can reach these populations, and what targeted approaches they will use. Estimates of demographics that are unsupported by actual historical data from prior outreach will probably not be viewed as compelling. We are seeking grantees with a real, documented, capacity to reach people, and to know which people they are reaching, and that should be reflected in the application materials.

Youth-serving programs

ISEIF funds youth-serving programs that educate participants on energy and electricity topics and that provide a pathway for participating youth to postsecondary opportunities, whether oriented around 4-year universities, community college, trade school, technical training, or careers in STEM fields. The foundation has adopted criteria developed by the Chicago Learning Exchange’s Connected Learning Guide for youth-serving programs.

Organizations seeking funding for youth-serving programs should explain how the proposed program meets the following criteria:

  1. Interests – Do youth care about this and want to get better at it? Or, is it in the interest of youth?
  2. Relationships – Does this program encourage collaboration amongst participants and increased youth relationships? Does this program include adult mentorship roles?
  3.  Opportunity – Are the skills being learned visibly named? Are youth being helped in discovering which of their skills and interests might connect to related academic/career paths?
  4. Technology – Maintain a mix of high-tech and low-tech approaches, selecting the appropriate tool for the desired practice and for the skill level of learners.

Preference will be given to programs that credentialize skills and program participation through digital badging, though we understand that this may not always apply.

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