First the good news: No matter what you want to do to help make your fleet more fuel-efficient or to reduce emissions, odds are there is funding available from someplace to help you do it.  The not-so-good news: Finding those sources can be challenging, and applying for grants can be even more difficult and time-consuming. 

Still, if you want to retrofit older vehicles with new engines, reduce idling by adding auxiliary power units, add aerodynamic systems, or invest in new technologies or alternative power vehicles, it can be well worth the effort to find out what resources might be out there to help fund your project.

“Funding absolutely still exists at the federal, state and even local levels,” says Carolyn McGough, senior program manager (a.k.a. the grant guru) at consulting firm Gladstein, Neandross & Associates.  “State agencies in particular [still have money for projects].  There are also quite a few Dept. of Energy demonstration and research projects.”

Not only are there lots of different funding sources, but each also has its own goals and procedures.  Some focus on advancing new technologies, some on reducing fossil fuel consumption, and some on curbing regulated emissions.   “Each agency has a different priority, so you have to understand their goals and whether or not your own project fits in,” McGough explains.  If there is a fit, you have to make sure that your application makes that fit easy for the agency to understand and appreciate.

If you do decide to plunge in and write the grant application in-house, McGough offers this additional advice: “The biggest thing to keep in mind is that it is a lot of work to put together a grant proposal, so allow enough time.  You also need to make sure that you provide all the information required; you don’t want to get disqualified because you are missing one attachment.  If grant-writing is not your day job, you may want to get help from us or from someone else.”

It may make sense in some cases to partner with another fleet or fleets and apply for a grant together, especially if you have very few units in your operation, she notes.  It does mean that you will have to share any funding rewarded, but it might also improve your odds of having your proposal accepted.

Here is a brief overview of some of the funding opportunities available now or in the near future for various clean energy projects.  The National Idling Reduction Network News was a primary source for links to the programs listed here and is a great resource for anyone who wants to keep an eye on funding opportunities as well as regulatory changes and news.

You may also want to build your own customized “Watch List” of agencies and organizations that are a good potential fit with your operation—agencies that you might choose to approach now or in the future concerning grants, vouchers and other financial incentives.