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Uses of funds

This section highlights how PCEF dollars can and cannot be used, and what applicants should know when it comes to PCEF funding. This is not a complete list of funding uses or requirements.

Allowable expenses

Funding can be used for:

  • Materials, supplies, and equipment purchases. Purchases must be in service of implementing the proposed project. PCEF does not require lowest cost budgeting; applicants should consider the social, economic, and environmental impacts of purchasing choices.
  • Expenses associated with maintaining an investment over its lifetime. Examples may include prepayment of a service warranty, HVAC maintenance contract, or five years of tree establishment care.
  • Items necessary for businesses starting or scaling up. Specifically in the clean energy sector, these expenses may be allowable for a contractor support grant.
  • Insurance costs. Insurance costs that are additional and a direct result of requirements associated with the PCEF grant are an allowable expense.
  • Items necessary to support recruitment, retention, and success of participants. Specifically in a workforce development program, including payments to, or on behalf of, a participant. Examples of participant payments may include assistance with payment of housing, transportation, childcare, tools, union dues, and participation stipends. Need for participant payments should be established (e.g., with income eligibility requirements), and payments should be proportional to the level of program participation (e.g., if the program is one day per week, payments would cover costs for that day).
  • Project reporting. Reports, plans, and other material developed using grant funds are an allowable expense and considered public information. In addition to standard reporting that is required of all PCEF grantees, PCEF applicants are encouraged to integrate culturally appropriate and meaningful ways of communicating and reporting about their project. Examples could include works of performance or visual art, etc.

Allowable expenses, with specific limits and/or restrictions

  • Fiscal sponsors. Organizations that apply for PCEF funds with a fiscal sponsor may allocate up to 10% of project expenses for fiscal sponsor fees.
  • Overhead costs. Also sometimes called administrative costs, refer to general costs of operations such as rent, utilities, administrative staff, insurance, legal, website, and telecommunications. Overhead costs are set at 10% for travel, materials, and contracts, and 20% for personnel. Note that applications with a fiscal sponsor may have a combined overhead rate up to 25%.
  • Building improvements. Improvements that are not directly related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, or green infrastructure measures but address life, health, or safety issues are an allowable project expense as follows:
    • All projects may use up to 30% of the total construction budget on each site to address life, health, or safety issues.
    • If additional leveraged funds are a part of the proposed project and the total project construction budget (PCEF funds + leveraged funds) allocates at least 70% funding to the proposed energy efficiency and renewable energy measures, then up to 50% of PCEF funds can be used to address life, health and safety issues. For example, if you have $50,000 in PCEF funds for a home energy retrofit, then you can use up to 30% ($15,000) for life, health, safety issues, while the remainder must go to energy improvements. However, if you have a total project cost of $84,000, with $34,000 in other funding, you can use up to half ($25,000) of PCEF funds for life, health, safety issues because the budget maintains a 70% clean energy and 30% life, health, safety allocation.
  • New construction or building improvements. Improvementsthat will result in a new or renovated building that does not use more energy than it generates on an annual basis (sometimes called net-zero) may apply for up to 25% of total project cost, including, if applicable, land acquisition and design, to a PCEF grant.
  • Land and/or building acquisition. This may be an allowable project expense in very limited circumstances where it is strategic and necessary to advance outcomes outlined in the Climate Investment Plan (CIP). For example, land may be acquired for a community solar project. Land acquisition for regenerative agriculture will not be considered as it is supported in Strategic Program 9 outlined in the CIP. If you are exploring potential land or building acquisition with PCEF funds, please contact us for consultation if it could be considered an allowable expense.
  • General operating costs. These costs are only an eligible expense for organizations whose primary purpose is regenerative agriculture and local food production. The amount covered is capped at 25% of operating costs or $100,000 annually, whichever is less. This general operating support is for three-year grants and applies only to organizations that pay their entire staff wages at or above the PCEF minimum wage.
  • Commercial properties. Grant investments for properties that are privately owned by individuals or for-profit organizations may be allowed in limited circumstances (e.g., if a nonprofit holds a long-term lease or as part of a contractor training program). If you are exploring a potential project that includes investment in privately held commercial property with PCEF funds, please contact us for consultation to determine if it could be considered an allowable expense.
  • Projects in the Right-Of-Way (ROW). Some projects in the public right-of-way (ROW) must be permitted, installed, and/or delivered by a public entity, such as the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES), Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), or Portland Parks and Recreation (PP&R). Prior to proposing a project impacting the ROW, it is important you understand the necessary permitting and regulations. In some instances, there may be prescriptive processes for implementing a ROW project, such as installing bike racks on the sidewalk. For transportation decarbonization ROW projects, please review the transportation decarbonization funding category page for additional guidance related to ROW efforts under PBOT’s jurisdiction. If a project that is not transportation related requires action from a public entity outside a defined or prescriptive process, the project is allowable only with a letter of support, including contact information, from the public entity with authority over relevant permitting and implementation. If you are exploring a project that includes working in the ROW and you have questions, please contact us.
  • Strategic Program 6: Comprehensive e-bike access and support and Strategic Program 7: Equitable clean transportation access cannot be duplicated in Community Responsive Grant projects. Projects that support or are additive to SP 6 or SP 7 will be considered for funding if they provide context for how their project complements, builds on, or develops valuable lessons for those strategic programs. Read more about SP 6 and SP 7 in the Transportation Decarbonization section of in the Climate Investment Plan document.
  • Electric vehicles (EV). EVs are eligible grant expenditures; however, they have some limitations when granted to for-profit entities. EV incentives designed to support for-profit business require a 75% cost share; the only exception to the 75% cost share is for specialized EVs that are used to help businesses engage in climate-related work, such as an electric watering truck for tree maintenance.
  • Land and/or building acquisition. This may be an allowable project expense in very limited circumstances where it is strategic and necessary to project success. For example, land may be acquired for a community solar project. Land acquisition for regenerative agriculture will not be considered as it is supported in Strategic Program 9 outlined in the CIP. If you are exploring potential land or building acquisition with PCEF funds, please contact us for consultation if it could be considered an allowable expense.
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSAs or other food shares that are sourced from operations within the city of Portland that employ regenerative agriculture practices may be eligible. Note that Sauvie Island is not within the city of Portland so cannot be used as a source for shares purchased using PCEF funds.

Not allowable use of funds

The following is a list of activities that are not allowable within RFP 3. Some activities are funded through one of the 16 strategic programs in the Climate Investment Plan. For example, if an organization aims to perform over 50 retrofits annually in single-family homes, they should plan to apply through Strategic Program 3 – Clean energy improvements in single family homes.

When activities are ineligible for funding due to their inclusion in a strategic program, the program number is specified. You can find more details on all strategic programs in the CIP. In addition, throughout all PCEF programs, expenses for technology that is not commercially available and physical improvements outside the city of Portland are not allowed.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy, not allowable

  • Single-family residential retrofits to more than 50 housing units per year or single-measure energy improvements to more than 150 housing units per year (see Strategic Program 3).
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements in new construction or major redevelopment of regulated multifamily housing with 20 or more units (see Strategic Program 1).
    • Note that energy retrofits are allowable in virtually all regulated multifamily affordable housing, the type of project will determine which PCEF program is most appropriate, e.g., an existing 40-unit building that is undergoing an energy retrofit but does not meet the definition of “major redevelopment” should apply through the Community Responsive Grant program, if that same building was undergoing a “major redevelopment” they would be served by Strategic Program 1 and would access funding through the Portland Housing Bureau.
  • Commercial buildings occupied by for-profit businesses (see Strategic Program 4).
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements at public schools (see Strategic Program 16).
  • Improvements to government owned facilities used for severe weather response (see Strategic Program 5).
  • Improvements to market rate rental housing, unless occupant is a low-income household.
  • Stand-alone climate resiliency improvements that do not reduce GHGs, e.g., adding filtration to a building (adding energy usage) without also doing efficiency measures to decrease energy usage for overall GHG reduction.

Green infrastructure, not allowable

  • Street tree planting in the public right of way (see Strategic Program 8).

Regenerative agriculture, not allowable

  • Street tree planting in the public right of way (see Strategic Program 8).
  • Land acquisition (see Strategic Program 9).
  • Hydroponics and aquaponics.

Transportation decarbonization, not allowable

  • Electric vehicles (cars, trucks, vans) for individual private ownership.

Workforce and contractor development, not allowable

  • Post-secondary education scholarships are limited to certification programs with direct climate work connection (e.g., Limited Renewable Energy Technician (LTR) license or arborist license). Scholarships for more general education and for four-year degrees will not be considered.
  • Workforce training programs that do not have a fully developed curriculum are not eligible for implementation grants but can apply for a planning grant to develop curriculum.

Rules to know before you apply

  • Transfer of property. Some types of property (e.g., real property and personal property valued above a certain threshold) obtained with PCEF funds, either in full or in part, may require the grantee to notify the City and receive approval for transfer ownership of the property. The City’s approval to transfer ownership will not be unreasonably withheld.
  • Wage requirements. All workers paid using PCEF funds must be paid at least 180% of area minimum wage. This wage is updated every year on July 1. For the time period July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024, the minimum wage a worker can be paid using PCEF funds is $27.81 per hour. Read about PCEF wage requirements.
  • Rent stability. PCEF-funded improvements cannot be used as a basis for rent increases.
  • Reimbursements. Reimbursement for items procured or work completed prior to the effective date of the grant agreement are not an allowable expense.