Funding a clean energy future for frontline communities
Climate change has a disproportionate impact on communities living on the frontlines of climate change including communities of color and people with low incomes. The Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund prioritizes these communities for clean energy, green infrastructure, green workforce development and contractor support investments. This will help ensure our most impacted residents are prepared for a changing climate as we move toward our goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
PCEF invests in projects and programs that meet the following priorities:
- Clean energy projects, including renewable energy and energy efficiency.
- Regenerative agriculture and green infrastructure projects.
- Clean energy workforce development and contractor support programs.
PCEF prioritizes projects serving Portland’s frontline communities and neighborhoods, including communities of color and people with low incomes. Examples of projects include solar panels and energy efficiency upgrades on multifamily housing, new workforce training programs in clean energy manufacturing and installation, shared food gardens, and increased tree canopy in heavily paved neighborhoods.
About the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund (PCEF)
The Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits initiative was passed by 65% of Portland voters in November 2018. It provides a consistent, long-term funding source and oversight structure to ensure that our community's climate action efforts are implemented to support social, economic and environmental benefits for all Portlanders, particularly communities of color and people with low incomes. The initiative was supported by a broad coalition of groups and individuals and represents the first environmental initiative in Oregon led by communities of color.
PCEF priority populations
Providing benefits to specific populations is central to the PCEF program. These populations are called out in the legislative code and are the focus of PCEF’s grant programs. It is important that organizations applying for PCEF grants understand these priority populations.
The PCEF legislative code identifies two “priority populations”:
- Priority populations for clean energy, green infrastructure, and regenerative agriculture projects: People with low income and people of color are priority populations for grants that address clean energy, green infrastructure, and regenerative agriculture. Historically, these populations have had less access to the benefits of green investments, and at the same time they are more vulnerable to extreme heat, wildfire smoke, vector borne diseases, flooding and other climate-related impacts.
- Priority populations for workforce and contractor development projects: Women, people of color, people with disabilities, and people who are chronically underemployed are identified as priority populations for grants that address workforce and contractor development. These populations have not had equitable access to workforce and contractor opportunities associated with the clean economy. Developing a diverse and well-trained workforce and contractor pool in the clean energy field requires reaching these populations and addressing the barriers that have prevented their full participation in this field.
PCEF Committee and City of Portland staffing
Diverse Portland residents are represented on the nine-member grant committee, known as the PCEF Committee, which makes funding recommendations to the Mayor and City Council and evaluates the effectiveness of how PCEF is working to achieve the goals of the initiative.
Membership of this committee must reflect the racial, ethnic and economic diversity of the City of Portland; include at least two residents living east of 82nd Avenue; and possess significant experience in the types of projects supported by PCEF. The PCEF program and its small team are located within the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
The PCEF Committee developed a set of principles to guide the program. These Guiding Principles describe the values by which the PCEF program is administered. The Guiding Principles complement the legislative code (PCC 7.07) and help ensure that decisions are being made in a way that aligns with the vision and values of the Committee and the community.
The guiding principles are:
Justice driven. Advance systems change that addresses historic and current discrimination. Center all disadvantaged and marginalized groups – particularly Black and Indigenous people.
Accountable. Implement transparent funding, oversight, and engagement processes that promote continuous learning, programmatic checks and balances, and improvement. Demonstrate achievement of equitable social, economic, and environmental benefit. Remain accountable to target beneficiaries, grantees, and all Portlanders.
Community powered. Trust community knowledge, experience, innovation, and leadership. Honor and build on existing work and partnerships, while supporting capacity building for emerging community groups and diverse coalitions. Engage with and invest in community-driven approaches that foster community power to create meaningful change.
Focused on climate action with multiple benefits. Invest in people, livelihoods, places, and processes that build climate resilience and community wealth, foster healthy communities, and support regenerative systems. Avoid and mitigate displacement, especially resulting from gentrification pressures.
Who is eligible to apply for PCEF funds?
Qualified nonprofit organizations who meet all of the following requirements are eligible to apply for PCEF grant funds:
- Designated by the Federal government as a 501(c) or 521(a) nonprofit entity.
- Registered and certified with the Oregon Secretary of State as a nonprofit organization.
- NOT on the Oregon Department of Justice list of Disqualified Charities.
Newly formed or emerging groups who do not meet the 501(c) or 521(a) designation requirement, or eligible nonprofits who may benefit from additional administrative capacity, may apply for a PCEF grant with a fiscal sponsor. A fiscal sponsor is an eligible nonprofit organization that provides organizational infrastructure and administrative support for managing a grant.
What are the current funding opportunities?
Portland nonprofits can bookmark this page to track current funding opportunities from PCEF.
What are the eligible uses of funds?
For an idea of the eligible uses of funds, study PCEF’s second request for proposals. Since each PCEF funding proposal is unique, it is important to review the eligible uses of funds for each specific funding solicitation.
What is the process for making funding decisions?
PCEF staff and the PCEF Committee take seriously the responsibility to follow the legislative code and the intentions of the citizens who worked diligently to create and pass this legislation, and to carefully steward these dollars. As noted below, accountability is addressed in a number of ways.
- Design - PCEF seeks input from stakeholders when developing programming in order to ensure responsiveness to community need and preferences.
- Capacity building – Trainings, resource materials, office hours, design sprints, planning grants, and other resources are available to help ensure that our target audience is aware of the funding opportunity and has the information and assistance they need to successfully apply for and implement grants.
- Grantee reporting - Robust reporting is required by each grantee, quarterly and at the close of grant. This ensures that programs are on track and also documents project outcomes. Progress reviews focus on ensuring that grantees are clear about expectations and have the information and resources they need to succeed.
- Program metrics – PCEF's Reporting & Evaluation Subcommittee is developing, with community input, high level metrics for tracking and reporting to the public, Mayor, and City Council the effectiveness of the program. Program metrics include outcome measures (what was accomplished) and process measures (how well did we deliver) and will be displayed on an easily accessible public dashboard (7.07.050.E.5).
- Workforce and contractor goals – A subset of grantee reporting and program metrics, measurable and ambitious goals for workforce and contracting are being developed (7.07.050.E.6). The goals will be based on a Market Study and informed by stakeholder input.
- High Road Advisory Council – A High Road Advisory Council was created to provide guidance to the PCEF Committee and staff regarding workforce and contracting issues including, but not limited to, the Workforce and Contractor Equity Plan, Workforce and Contractor Equity Agreements, and relevant RFP criteria. The Council will be composed of stakeholders with experience and networks that can help inform the issues being addressed in order to ensure that goals and requirements are responsive to field conditions.
- Evaluation & Continuous Improvement – Related to the program metrics described above, PCEF engages in frequent evaluation and reflection in order to identify ways to improve program delivery and outcomes (e.g., who participates and how, types of applications received, results). We also consider peer benchmarks to assess levels of service appropriate to our resources. For example, major foundations in the region and state are granting fewer dollars though with significantly more staff, an established grantmaking infrastructure, and significantly less stakeholder engagement and grantee support.
PCEF is building, from scratch, a historic program that centers equity in climate action. Accountability to the legislative code and the intentions of the citizens who worked diligently to create and pass this legislation are foremost on our minds. Questions and feedback are always welcome and can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.