NCDEQ Partners with NC GreenPower to Support Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Schools in Economically Distressed Areas

NC GreenPower was awarded $798,436 in funding from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) State Energy Office to reduce the energy burden for North Carolina’s K-8 public schools. The funding opportunity was part of the American Rescue Plan Act.

The nonprofit, along with its contractor partners, supported the purchase and installation of high-efficiency light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures in gymnasiums at no cost to 60 qualifying schools in North Carolina Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties — Anson, Avery, Bertie, Chowan, Columbus, Franklin, Madison, Pitt, Robeson, Scotland and Vance — with high eligibility rates for free/reduced lunch. Funding was prioritized for school systems in qualifying areas with disproportionate energy consumption and costs based on data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s “Statistical Profile” tool.

A heavy emphasis was placed on upgrading qualifying elementary and middle school gymnasiums in electric cooperative and electric municipality service territories since they have limited access to utility-sponsored commercial lighting rebates; however, schools within an investor-owned utility’s territory were eligible to participate if the general eligibility requirements were met.

In addition, DEQ provided emergency energy assistance for Reaching All Minds STEM Academy to replace malfunctioning heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, improve indoor air quality and reduce the energy burden for a school that educates underserved families.

Both efforts align with recommendations from the North Carolina Clean Energy Plan to foster long-term energy affordability and equity for disadvantaged communities. Projects were completed by September 30, 2022, and have received positive feedback from gym teachers and other staff members, who were happy to have improved lighting for their students along with energy savings for their school.