About PCEF

Group of POC holding signs for the Portland Clean Energy Fund
Purpose, goals, timeline, and frequently asked questions about the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund.
On this page

The need

Funding a clean energy future for frontline communities

Climate change has a disproportionate impact on our most vulnerable community members. PCEF prioritizes projects serving Portland’s frontline communities and neighborhoods, including communities of color and people with low incomes. These communities, identified as priority populations for PCEF, have historically been left out of conversations and solutions for climate justice and resilience.  

PCEF invests in projects and programs that meet the following priorities:  

  • Clean energy projects, including renewable energy and energy efficiency; 
  • Transportation decarbonization projects;
  • Regenerative agriculture and green infrastructure projects; and
  • Climate action-related workforce development and contractor support programs. 

By providing funding to priority populations, PCEF is working to ensure our most impacted residents are prepared for a changing climate as we move toward our goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

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

PCEF focuses investments in climate action by giving priority to people that have been historically under-resourced by sustainability, climate action, and clean energy programs. These groups are known as PCEF priority populations and include, but are not limited to:

  • People with low incomes
  • People of color
  • People living with disabilities

For example, women, transgender people, and others facing gender or sex-based discrimination in the workplace may be considered priority populations for workforce development projects because they’ve historically been excluded from workforce opportunities.

PCEF Committee and City of Portland staffing

Diverse Portland residents are represented on the nine-member grant committee, known as the PCEF Committee. This committee is charged with recommending the inaugural 5-year Climate Investment Plan (CIP) to Portland City Council, and evaluating the effectiveness of the program in achieving the goals laid out in the CIP.

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.

PCEF Committee Guiding Principles

graphic showing hands in middle with the words guiding principles above, and justice driven; community powered; accountable below

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:

  1. Designated by the Federal government as a 501(c) or 521(a) nonprofit entity.
  2. Registered and certified with the Oregon Secretary of State as a nonprofit organization.
  3. 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, read PCEF's Community Responsive Grants RFP 3 Uses of funds guide. 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 program structure changes

Based on early lessons learned, in early 2022, Commissioner Rubio directed staff to make recommendations for program improvements that would support achievement of four objectives:

  • Identify changes to enable accelerated funding of carbon reduction projects.
  • Draw clearer and more relevant connections between PCEF and the City of Portland’s carbon reduction goals.
  • Address administrative and operational needs identified by staff and committee.
  • Address audit recommendations.

PCEF staff completed the review process in summer 2022 and provided the recommendations to Commissioner Rubio. City Council considered the proposal at two sessions in October 2022, where it received unanimous approval on October 26, 2022. Read the approved ordinance.

Code changes

The adopted ordinance removes from code the funding allocations that have guided PCEF investments to date. As a replacement, the code requires the creation of 5-year climate investment plans (CIP), prioritizing carbon reduction projects that advance racial and social justice. The CIP includes existing PCEF-funded grant work and create a new category of work. The existing work includes PCEF’s community responsive grants, which fund community-led projects and programs through nonprofit organizations. The new category of work will include strategic initiatives that are aligned with the City’s broader climate action efforts

The CIP will be updated every five years based on the latest information, including current climate science, City decarbonization priorities, community input and need, and local implementation capacity.

Learn more about the CIP

Questions and feedback are always welcome and can be directed to cleanenergyfund@portlandoregon.gov.  

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