Catalyzing funds for communities

CERTs Seed Grants

CERTs awards seed grants to communities for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects across Minnesota. We’ve awarded over $1.98M to 509 projects since 2006.

Explore previously funded projects in the map, stories, and lists below to get inspired!

Seed Grant Project Map

The map below includes all projects funded by CERTs with different colors indicating different years. Click on a map dot to learn more about individual projects, drag to move, and use the + and – buttons to zoom.

Get inspired by more stories!

Seed Grant Projects by Year

Look back at CERTs Seed Grant announcements to see all the projects in a given year.

CERTS SEED GRANT PROCESS

Project Objectives

  • Support community-based clean energy projects in each Minnesota CERT region. Clean energy projects can include energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy, electric vehicle-related projects, and energy storage.

  • Encourage projects that are highly visible in the community and can be an example for other communities.
  • We are especially looking for projects that:
    • Help people learn about clean energy and get energized.
    • Build community by engaging a variety of community partners.
    • Remove barriers, making clean energy more accessible for everyone.

Regional Funding Available

Minnesota regions outlinedEach region had its own pool of funding and its own steering committee that selects projects for funding. See map of our regions.

We call these grants “seed grants” because they are small amounts of money meant to get a project started and inspire others to support the project. Projects may receive $5,000-$10,000 for labor and minor materials and supplies.

Funding for these projects is provided through the Minnesota Department of Commerce's Division of Energy Resources and the Morgan Family Foundation.

Seed Grant Timeline

August 2023: CERTs issues the Request for Proposals and begins accepting applications.

August-Oct. 10, 2023: Let’s talk! CERTs staff are available to assist applicants with seed grant ideas, questions, and applications.

Oct. 10, 2023 at noon: Final deadline for applications.

Oct. 12-Nov. 17, 2023: Steering Committees review applications and meet to determine project funding.

Nov.-Dec. 2023: CERTs notifies applicants of funding decisions.

Dec. 2023: Once the contract is complete, organizations receive an email notifying them when they can begin work.

Late Jan. 2024: CERTs public announcement of awards.

June 3, 2024 at 4 p.m.: Interim report due. Projects may also submit an interim invoice for up to 50% of the full project award. Any project that has not begun work may have funding revoked. Funds will be redirected to other project(s) in the region.

Jan. 13, 2025 at 4 p.m.: Final invoice and final report due. Project work must be completed.

Upon completion of the project: CERTs will work with seed grant recipients to develop project case studies and stories.

Steps to Apply

piggy bank outline with CERTs logo

  1.   Read the Request for Proposals.
  2.   Email us with questions: [email protected]
  3.   Download the application questions [PDF] and start jotting down your ideas.
  4.   Email us with questions: [email protected]
  5.   Fill out the application and submit by noon on 10/10.
  6.   Double check to make sure you completed your application in full (you can edit your answers up until noon 10/10).
  7.   Check your inbox for emails from CERTs, and as always, email us with questions: [email protected]

Application Tips

  • The application is a Google Form, the link is in the Request for Proposals.
    • In order to save your progress, submit the application when you're finished with your session. A link to your in-progress application will be sent to the email address you provide.
    • You may continue to revise your application, resubmitting each time, up until the October 10 deadline.
    • In order to avoid technical issues with the application, we strongly suggest writing your answers in another document and then copying them into the application when you're ready to apply. Download the application questions [PDF].
       
  • All links within the application will open in a new tab or window.

Questions? Let's Talk!

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Seeking translation assistance? We have staff who are willing to translate your application answers from Spanish to English. We can recommend interpretation and translation services for other languages. Email us.

CERTs Seed Grants Request for Proposals

CERTs region mapCERTs Seed Grants for community-led clean energy projects in Minnesota.

We're no longer accepting applications.

Projects were notified of awards in December 2023 and can begin work once the contract is complete. A public announcement of the awarded projects will occur in January 2024. Sign up to receive the announcement. Projects must be completed by January 13, 2025.

CERTs Seed Grants can be used for labor and minor materials and supplies. They cannot pay for equipment. See Eligibility below for details.

Wherever you are with your project idea, you can contact us. Staff are available to assist you throughout your project including with completing your application. Email us: [email protected]

The main goals of this funding: 

  • Support community-based clean energy projects in each Minnesota CERT region. Clean energy projects can include energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy, electric vehicles or other beneficial electrification, and energy storage.

  • Encourage projects that are highly visible in the community and can be an example for other communities.

  • We are especially looking for projects that:
    • Help people learn about clean energy, get energized, and consider what clean energy could mean for them.
    • Build community around clean energy by engaging a variety of community partners.
    • Remove barriers, making clean energy more accessible for everyone and easing the path to action.
    • Preferably, result in energy saved, generated, or electrified.

Applications will be evaluated according to statewide criteria (based on these goals) as well as regional criteria established by CERTs Regional Steering Committees. See Review Criteria below for details.

REGIONAL FUNDING AVAILABILITY

Each region has its own pool of funding. Each regional CERT Steering Committee will make their region's funding selections. See the map of the seven CERT regions of Minnesota.

Amounts: These are considered seed grants and are for $5,000-10,000. There are usually more requests than funds available.

Funding for these projects is provided through the Minnesota Department of Commerce's Division of Energy Resources and the Morgan Family Foundation.

ELIGIBILITY

  • The project must be located in Minnesota.
     
  • Eligible applicants include but are not limited to: nonprofit organizations, community-based organizations, local governments, tribal nations, schools, libraries, civic associations, religious institutions, service clubs, student groups, business associations, cooperatives, food shelves, shelters, and for-profit entities if the project has a larger public purpose. If you have questions about eligibility, email [email protected].
     
  • Eligible costs include labor and minor materials and supplies.
    • Examples of eligible labor costs include: consultant fees, design professional fees, electrician costs, installer costs, student interns, participation incentives, etc.
    • Eligible material and supply costs include: printing, postage, office materials and supplies to conduct outreach and education, training and registration fees, mileage (at approved state rates), etc.
    • Not eligible: capital costs or substantial equipment and hardware such as solar panels, wind turbines, windows, etc.
    • If you have questions about eligible costs, email [email protected].
       
  • Project must be completed within the funding period: December 2023 through January 13, 2025.
     
  • Preference will be given to proposals that are from, led by, and/or include meaningful participation by historically underserved populations. CERTs defines underserved populations as energy burdened communities — those who spend more than 5% of their income on energy costs — and/or people historically excluded from energy decisions and opportunities. This includes (but is not limited to) Black, Indigenous, people of color, multiracial, immigrant, LGBTQ+, women, low income, disabled, and geographically-isolated communities.

CONTRACTUAL TERMS

  • Projects will submit an Interim Report and a Final Report. CERTs will provide the forms for these reports. 
     
  • CERTs cannot fund work completed before the contract is completed in December 2023.
     
  • Payments are made on a reimbursement basis, after the work is completed. However, pre-payments may be allowed if you email a request before October 10, 2023 at [email protected].
     
  • Projects can request payment as soon as their projects are done. Projects can also request interim payments. 50% of the project award can be paid when 50% of the project is complete.   
     
  • Invoices will not be paid until reports are received, reviewed, and approved.
     
  • If there has been no progress on the project by the time of the interim report (June 3, 2024), funding may be revoked and reallocated to another project in the same region.
     
  • Projects agree to share results publicly via a case study written by CERTs.

PROPOSAL MATERIALS & SUBMISSION INFORMATION

All proposals meeting the eligibility requirements described in this Request for Proposals and received by the deadline — Tuesday, October 10, 2023 at noon — will be evaluated based on the statewide and regional criteria described below. 

Complete proposals include the following:

  • A completed CERTs Seed Grant Application form.
     
  • Documentation from any project partner (email, letter of support), if applicable. Upload documents to the final section of the application or email: [email protected]
    • Applicants are encouraged to seek appropriate collaborators and/or partners.
       
  • Documentation of secured funding from other source (award letter, email), if applicable. Upload documents to the final section of the application or email: [email protected]
     
  • Multiple-Region Application Addendum if applying to more than one region. Upload documents to the final section of the application or email: [email protected]
    • A single project may apply for funding from more than one region if the project spans more than one region. If you wish to apply to multiple regions, you must include in your application the Multiple-Region Application Addendum which is available upon request by emailing  [email protected].

In addition, CERTs staff are available to help applicants with their applications. Please reach out with questions or for assistance: [email protected]

Complete proposals must be submitted no later than noon on October 10, 2023. 

TIMELINE

DATE TASKS
July 2023 CERTs Issues RFP and begins accepting applications.
July-October 9, 2023 CERTs staff available to assist applicants with seed grant ideas, questions and applications.
October 10, 2023 at noon Final deadline for applications.
October 12-November 17, 2023 Regional Steering Committees review applications and meet to determine project funding.
November-December 2023 CERTs notifies applicants of funding decisions. If applicable, applicants may be asked if they would accept less money than requested.
CERTs notifies projects of paperwork needed for contract.
December 2023 Once contract is complete, organization will receive an email notifying them that they can begin work.
Late January 2024 Public announcement of awards. CERTs does media outreach about awarded projects. Sign up to receive the announcement.
June 3, 2024 at 4 p.m. Interim Report due (form provided by CERTs).

  • Projects may submit an interim invoice for up to 50% of the full project award, if 50% of project is complete.
  • Any project that has not begun work may have funding revoked. Funds will be redirected to other project(s) in the region.
January 13, 2025 at 4 p.m. Project work must be completed. Final Invoice and Final Report are due (Final Report form will be provided by CERTs).
Before July 2025 (upon completion of project) CERTs will work with Seed Grant Recipients to develop project case studies.

REVIEW PROCESS

CERTs staff do not select or vote on projects. Funded projects will be selected by Regional CERT Steering Committees in Central, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, and West Central regions. In the Metro region, a designated Review Committee will select projects.

REVIEW CRITERIA

Projects will be evaluated on Statewide Criteria as well as Regional Criteria. Please review the Statewide Criteria and the additional Regional Criteria specific to your project’s region. See our map to identify your CERT region.

STATEWIDE CRITERIA

  1.  Advance community-based clean energy projects. Clean energy can include projects related to energy efficiency and conservation, renewable energy, electric vehicle-related projects, and energy storage.

  2.  Help people learn about clean energy and/or has high potential to be a replicable model.

  3.  Engage a variety of community partners.
  4.  Remove barriers or make clean energy more accessible in communities.
  5.  Demonstrate clear goals, benchmarks, timelines, and budgets.
  6.  Result in energy savings or offsets.
  7.  Preference will be given to proposals that are from, led by, and/or include meaningful participation by historically underserved populations. CERTs defines underserved populations as energy burdened communities — those who spend more than 5% of their income on energy costs — and/or people historically excluded from energy decisions and opportunities. This includes (but is not limited to) Black, Indigenous, people of color, multiracial, immigrant, LGBTQ+, women, low income, disabled, and geographically-isolated communities.

REGIONAL CRITERIA

Click the region for details.

Central CERT welcomes a wide range of projects. We especially like to see those that 

  • Support new leaders; and/or 
  • Help share information about clean energy incentives and move projects forward in their communities.
  • Engage and guide historically marginalized communities to access and maximize newly available clean energy incentive opportunities — through their utility and local, county, state, and federal governments.
  • Reduce household energy burden through energy efficiency, conservation, or renewable energy, and with referrals to energy affordability programming as appropriate.
  • Support actions in preparation for building electrification, through energy auditing or developing household energy upgrade plans.

NE CERT welcomes clean energy projects of all types and would particularly love to see projects working to creatively reduce barriers and build community around:

  • Clean energy housing.
  • Clean energy workforce training.
  • Equitable access to the Inflation Reduction Act resources.

NW CERT places a special emphasis on projects that are highly visible, could serve as a model for other like sites/entities, have a strong community education component, and can demonstrate long term sustainability.

In addition, the NW CERT Steering Committee is particularly interested in projects from smaller communities and populations that have been historically marginalized such as Indigenous, Black, and people of color.

SE CERT will consider all applications and especially encourages projects that help communities utilize federal and state incentives, such as through project planning, education, or workforce development.

SW CERT has a strong preference for projects that:

  • Focus on youth, partnerships, mixed/gap funding sources, and education.
  • Have a strong educational component or present a model that can be used by other organizations.
  • Demonstrate clear results, especially with the educational component.
  • Reduce energy costs for organization utilizing both energy efficiency/conservation and solar adoption strategies.   
  • Emphasize community impact/action.

WC CERT is currently soliciting proposals from eligible organizations interested in furthering community investment in clean energy programs and opportunities.

REPORTING

CERTs will provide a template for the Interim Report (due June 3, 2024) and Final Report (due January 13, 2025). You must show progress on your project by noting it in your Interim Report or your funding may be revoked. 

QUESTIONS & PROPOSAL REVIEW

If you have an idea, or even if you feel like this could be an opportunity but don’t yet have a concrete idea, please contact us! Staff are available to help you with your application. Contact us: [email protected].

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