Managing California Energy Commission Grants
Join us for an information packed session on everything you need to know to manage a grant project from the California Energy Commission. OpenGrants CEO, Sedale Turbovsky, and Momentum Project Management Team Lead, Andrea Swanson, discuss what exactly goes into project management for grant funding initiatives.
In This 1-Hour Session, We Covered:
- Project Management Best Practices
- Risk Management
- Tools and Helpful Frameworks
- How to Budget For Project Management in Your Grant
About the Speakers
Sedale Turbovsky, CEO & Co-Founder, OpenGrants
Sedale Turbovsky is the CEO and co-founder of OpenGrants, a venture-backed startup focused on building modern infrastructure for funding. He has been an entrepreneur since childhood. After honing his leadership skills as an outdoor guide in his younger years, he started his professional career as an independent consultant focused on delivering data products and digital strategies to enterprise clients in South America.
Andrea Swanson, Project Management Team Lead, Momentum
Momentum designs, develops, and deploys innovation campaigns for organizations working on transformative water, energy, transportation, and manufacturing technologies. We conduct rigorous research, thoughtful analysis, and strategic engagement to dramatically increase the ability of our clients to access and manage public and private investment, acquire new customers, and commercialize advanced technologies.
As a senior project manager at Momentum, Andrea Swanson spearheads the administration of groundbreaking zero- and near-zero emission freight projects worth over $60 million in grants for the Ports of Long Beach, Oakland, Stockton, and San Diego. With her expert leadership, she drives the growth of Momentum’s dynamic project management team, guiding them in the management of competitive grant applications and executing all post-award administration and project management tasks, such as contract negotiation, kickoff meetings, invoicing, and reporting, with precision and excellence.
Andrea is a highly accomplished professional with over 15 years of expertise in the field of environmental consulting. Prior to her tenure at Momentum, she was an integral member of the team at Seattle-based Floyd|Snider, providing indispensable support to a group of over 25 engineers and scientists with her exceptional skills in document management, formatting technical editing, QA/QC, and graphic design. She also led the production of over 300 deliverables annually at AMEC/Geomatrix Consultants while managing a team and overseeing company style and marketing materials. With her exceptional eye for detail and background in fine art, Andrea brings a unique perspective to visual presentation and a highly trained eye for detail.
Read the Transcription
Please note, this transcription is automatically generated and may contain some spelling and contextual errors.
Sedale: All right, everyone. Welcome to the OpenGrants webinar on managing California Energy Commission Grants. Super excited to have y’all here and super excited that we are joined by Andrea Swanson from Momentum. We are gonna get into it in just a minute here, but as folks join, I just wanna share a couple things.
This is the OpenGrants webinar on managing California Energy Commission grants. And we are going to be doing a deep dive onto the dynamics and frameworks and what have you and everything else about. Energy Commission grants. So thank you for joining us. This webinar will be recorded.
It will be posted and emailed out to all of those of you who registered. So if you do have to leave at some point, never fear. And we do have the chat disabled. Ask that you please use the q and a. Tool to submit questions to us. And just know that we will break. So the format for this is going to be a bit of a discussion, some introductions, and then we will take a break and we will dive into the q and a.
So please feel free to use that at any time during the webinar. And thank you so much for joining us. I’m gonna give people a few more minutes to trickle in but I do want to take a minute to introduce myself. My name is Sedale Turbovsky. I’m the CEO and co-founder here at OpenGrants, and we are the easy way to win grant funding.
So OpenGrants was designed to make grant funding more transparent, accessible, and equitable. And I am super excited. To have an incredible expert around managing California Energy Commission grants. Joining us today, Andrea if you want to go ahead and you wanna come on off mute and introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you and momentum maybe that’d be great.
Andrea: Thanks Sedale. Yeah, my name’s Andrea Swanson. I am a senior project manager and the project management team lead for Momentum and we work with companies that are going after various types of public funding and we really got our started with the California Energy Commission grants.
But we’ve expanded to all types of federal and other types of state grants as well, and we provide services from helping to create the concept of the project, to developing the full application, submitting the application, writing the application, all those wonderful, fun technical documents you’re probably all familiar with.
And then actually executing the project after it’s been funded. We help our clients navigate through all of. The pitfalls and challenges that come through with those types of projects. As the grant process is a whole other project on top of actually executing the project that you wanted to fund.
So we try to take the pain points away from our clients on that side so they can really focus on developing and deploying the project that they’ve been dreaming about make happen. We focus a lot on the clean tech and sustainability space. But I would say where we really focus is innovation. Both pushing innovation forward on the client side as well as pushing innovation forward on, on how we think about public funding, how it’s used, and how we manage it.
So I’m excited to be with you all here today. I’ve been with Momentum since 2019 and have predominantly focused on grant management since then. So excited to share with you what I have learned over the last four years.
Sedale: Thank you so much. And I do want to, full disclosure, momentum is an investor in OpenGrants, so I just wanna make that apparent to folks who are attending as well today.
But thank you so much for joining us. Really excited to dive into this topic. And I think we’ll just start with High level. Let’s talk a little bit about project management and just some of the best practices. So you highlighted, I think, very correctly, there’s the process of going in, like getting the grant.
And that’s a whole process and a whole thing in and of itself. And that’s something that momentum helps with. Your role is specifically taking on the the management of this. You’ve gotten this big award, you’re super excited, now you’re gonna go off and execute. How do you make sure that happens?
So I would love to hear your thoughts just high level on first, how you define your role and scope within a project and some of the, high level like best practices or thoughts you have for folks who are just trying to understand a bit more about how this all goes.
Andrea: So with California Energy Commission grants, task one is often where grant management project management is first associated. So the regular routine reporting monthly call forms, the quarterly reports managing the various E C M systems. You’ve probably heard that. Energy Commissioning Agreement Management System, that’s a whole new side of the CEC website that has lots of great tools on it.
That’s where it starts, but it can really move out from there because that’s the administrative side of the grant. But there’s so many other pieces that the Energy Commission requires that maybe we haven’t planned on as part of the project. So there’s deliverables that might be. Secondary to the things you’re actually going on after the project, and we can, project management should help manage that as well.
Those timelines, the things that are in your schedule of products that coincide with your project timeline, but are. Deliverables that are really intended for the energy commission themselves that are maybe secondary to the work you’re engaged in as a project team. Managing those things, setting interim and milestones cuz having just a set of deadlines, which luckily.
The organization of the grant does provide, you do have a playbook from the scope of the work, scope of work and schedule of products. That’s really your bread and butter there for managing the entire project. That’s your point of reference, but more needs to be put into that.
So having interim deadlines, iterative deadlines when you’re developing big deliverable. Big reports. And then final reporting is something to start thinking about at the beginning as well, which is something project managers should usually have a pretty strong hand in. There’s technical parts of those reports, but a lot of it can be written almost on day one because you’re capturing who the people are in the project, what the technology is, and who the major players and stakeholders.
Sedale: No, that’s great advice. I love the idea. And maybe you could speak a little bit more to it of, using the application itself and some of that day one information to develop and put together this, strategy and some of the reporting. Can you share a little bit more about just like what that looks like functionally.
Andrea: Yeah. Yeah. So the project narrative captures so much great information. You’ve already written that document. Leverage that into what your like introductory sections of the final report are gonna be. You can, you basically have the outline of that already on day one. And those are source documents that everyone on the project should really be familiar with.
So even if you’re bringing on. Secondary folks to support, like that’s a good space for them to ground themselves in. What was the intention of this project at the beginning? Most projects go over several years. When you’ve written that application, the narrative doesn’t go into the contract, but you already have it.
So ground yourselves in that the documents from the application that become your contract are your scope of work, your schedule of products, and your budget. And so those give you details about how the project is gonna be managed, who’s doing what, who’s responsible for what that is where to ground truth and keep things grounded in that organizational aspect.
So it continues to make sense with how the project is actually playing out in real time. People are gonna change over projects that last multiple years. So having that kind of record of how did things ebb and flow, how did your project team change? When you’ve taken the time to think about the information you wanna gather at the beginning, you’ll also find opportunities for.
Maybe there’s data that you didn’t plan on collecting that you actually wanna have in that final report. One that I’ve come across a lot is sometimes we want anecdotal data. Like we’ve already talked about how to do like the measurement and verification or the hard data collection. That’s usually in the grant, but we haven’t always thought about who do we wanna survey?
Like what has the user’s experience been or the operator’s experience been? And that information is often something you do wanna have in that final report. So thinking about that in the early days, we’ll give you time to plan for when during this project, does it make sense to do that? Who are the stakeholders that we want to have feedback from?
So when we are reporting back to the Energy Commission, they’re getting the information they want, but we’re also getting the information we want for how to improve our product or how to improve our process going forward.
Sedale: I love it. So we, we’ve already talked in you’ve given some incredible advice just in the few minutes we’ve been chatting.
But there, it sounds like there’s a lot and I know there’s a lot, there’s a lot to do here. There’s a lot going on. There’s data, there’s these final reports, there’s interim deliverables, there’s all this stuff. What’s the best way to start to organize this? Is there, are there any frameworks or tools that you would suggest for folks who are trying to make all this happen?
Andrea: Absolutely. I think RACI charts are an ex incredible tool cuz you have a lot of players in these things and you’re gonna have your own milestones as well as the grant milestones you wanna hit. Having a RACI chart that shows. Who’s responsible for what, who’s accountable, who you need support from, who you need to communicate with.
That gives everybody on your team, cuz you are gonna have a big team, generally a sense of who to go to, who’s overseeing something. A project management system can be really useful. We use, and I’m
Sedale: Yeah. I’m gonna stop you. Can you define like what a RACI chart is for those who might not know real quick?
Andrea: Yes. So a RACI chart is a chart that identifies who’s responsible, who’s accountable, who should be communicated with, who’s a support person, and who should be informed. So different people on a project team may hold different spaces for each task. For instance, a project manager, when it comes to the quarterly reporting, they’re the responsible person.
They’re also accountable for getting that submitted, but they’re gonna need to communicate with different folks on the project team and be supported by different folks on the project team to make sure the information getting into those reports is correct. When it comes to like execution of project on the ground, that’s probably not your project manager who’s managing your grant, who is accountable there?
That’s probably like your team lead and. Being able to break those things down in that manner gives people a sense of ownership. Who’s in charge of what removes some of those too many cooks. So in the kitchen, problems that can happen when you have a lot of people leading different things and gives clarity of communication and roles to everyone involved.
Sedale: I love that. So can you talk, you were about to mention a project management tool that y’all use. Would love to hear about that a little bit. And then I think, on the heels of that, just to prepare you, I think one of the things I’d love to chat about is, obviously there’s all this internal work that you’re doing, the project manage, but there’s a counterpart Like an agreement manager on the other side of the table.
I’d love to hear a little bit about how any of this interacts or engages with them and then you know, the human element of it as well. But we should, let’s talk project management tool first real quick. Sure.
Andrea: Having a tool that helps you track deadlines is really useful. We predominantly use teamwork for that, but there’s lots of systems out there that have.
Benefits to them. I think using something that makes sense for the type of project work you’re doing is the best indicator of, is that a good system? I honestly wouldn’t recommend one above another, but having something where you can easily see deadlines, view that project schedule is really helpful.
And also gives you a chance to like assign things to people within the project team. But overall, The things you wanna track are like, what are the key things in the project that are important? Is it permitting? Is it Contracting, like all of those things tend to come up in, in the course of a project.
So you also wanna have a really centralized system that’s very organized for keeping all of your project records. My preference that we’ve used here quite a bit is we keep filing system we use Dropbox, and just any kind of file management system. But we make sure it matches the scope of work.
So it’s organized by the tasks that are actually in the scope of work for the grant, and that helps keep it in a linear fashion. So your tasks are organized the same way. Your scope of work and your files all follow the same system. It’s easy to find things. It’s easy to know where to put something when you receive it.
Hopefully too, not too many tertiary files end up being created, so you keep a streamlined system throughout. Having that set up early in, early days and having everything look the same across all your streams will prevent confusion as well as just wasted time deciding where something should live.
Sedale: Yeah, I think the harmony certainly is important and it makes working in that space just so nice, like in that streamlined environment. It’s so nice because you do know you’re like, oh, this is that task and it goes here and you don’t have to think about it, and just reduces the cognitive load of everyone’s that you can focus on.
Getting stuff done and finding things. And I, you brought up an important point of like contractors and working with third parties. I would love to get your thoughts on just, how any of these frameworks play in both with your agreement manager at the c e c. Like, how do you manage that relationship?
Is that something that you need to factor into this sort of project management process? Let’s talk about that first and. Maybe we can, touch on just like subcontractors and risk management and some of those other aspects of the space.
Andrea: So your commissioning agreement manager, your cam is really your partner throughout the project.
They’re the, they’re your direct window into the c e C. So Dev developing a good relationship with them early on developing good communication, being responsive. To them and expecting them to be responsive to you as well is the expectation. Don’t let those emails sit in your inbox for 24 hours and not let them know, Hey, I’ve seen this and we’re working on an answer.
You may not know the answer when it comes in, but that’s the one person at the c e C who’s there to be like the advocate for your project. They want to see you succeed. They want to work with you through the challenges that are inevitably going to come up. That just always happens. Like grants, grant funded projects do not ever go through with no hiccups in the process, so you don’t need to feel like you need to hide those challenges.
In fact, your cam. One of their roles is to evaluate performance and evaluating your performance actually can impact future scoring. So if you’re going to go after additional public funding down the line, having a good relationship with the cam and having good justifications for the changes that you need to make to the project and using them as a partner to evaluate what changes should be made to the grant can really help you get a good score.
They. Are very willing to work with good players. So be a, be forthcoming, be communicative, and they’re gonna work through those challenges with you. I have. Seen issues when people have tried, like they’ve been worried about sharing a challenge and have tried to hide it too long. And like it’s, it doesn’t do you any good or the cc any good to not be forthcoming with something isn’t going as we’ve planned.
Because everyone wants to see the project succeed. They’re not there to be. The wagging the finger at you? No. It’s about making the project successful and when you’ve taken the time to develop that relationship and, work together, everyone should be on the same team when it comes down to it.
And you can ask for that performance evaluation criteria at the beginning of your project. In fact, I think it’s a good idea too, cuz it breaks down how they’re gonna think about. Things that come up across the life of the project and it gives good pointers about how to lose the minimum amount of points across the life of the project so that you come out looking yeah, they’re a good actor.
They really committed to working through the challenges that came up and continuing to keep the project moving forward.
Sedale: That’s great advice. I, we definitely, had some challenges with our projects that we worked on in the past, and we were able to work with our CAM and get some, things done, budget, budget amendments, all that kind of stuff.
Always a critical. Resource there. So that’s wonderful advice. So just to kinda recap, and I just wanna do a little level set. We’ve talked a bit about just kinda general frameworks, how to get started and get off on the right foot how to be organized, some thoughts on some tools. We’ve talked a little bit about working with the, the energy commission directly and who your point person there is.
And I think kinda the. Thing I wanted to dive into while I wanna mention two things, if you do have any questions, please do feel free to drop them in the q and a. But the other thing I wanted to dive into is, generally speaking, you’re gonna be, you’re managing a project. A lot of these projects from the Energy Commission in particular may be bigger, and there may be subcontractors and other groups.
How do you make sure that they don’t foul up your performance? What any thoughts on, best practices for working with subcontractors and other project partners. How do you approach both like management of those folks and then also kinda risk management of just your exposure?
Andrea: Yeah, absolutely. Getting everyone on the same page early on is really critical. Having clear point people for each group that is working together as very critical. Clear scope of work, clear contracts, clear understanding across the board of who’s responsible for what is really gonna limit the.
Opportunities for friction and misunderstanding. So getting folks on the same page early on is something as whoever is banning who the project should really focus on, having opportunities for that touch. As maybe everybody doesn’t come on at the same time either. There are subcontractors who maybe are having a role later on in the project, so having a good.
Meaning to bring them into the project, fill them in on what has happened so far, and getting them introduced to the right people. Oversight of work products is also can be really useful. Setting up the expectation early on that there’s gonna be interim deadlines before things are submitted to the c e C, so that you have a chance to review work products, make sure it’s meeting the scope of work.
Making sure that subcontractors understand the scope of work. That’s a really important key there. It’s easy for assumptions to be made, especially if people are doing something that is pretty standard in the industry. They may do it in a very standard way, but there may be really specific things that are in your scope of work that need to be achieved through that work that this company usually does.
So making sure they understand. What has been delineated by the c as the goal of this subcontractor’s role in your project will hopefully circumvent there being a misunderstanding at a later date. We’re, we’re cast to be redone which is unfortunate, but it happens. But I think setting those expectations early can limit some of the risk of that.
Having good project records, especially around invoicing. You have to expect to be audited when it comes to public funding. It isn’t unusual. And they’re very straightforward with expectations around invoicing. There’s a lot of information on the e cam site and anything that isn’t clear, you should definitely ask your cam about directly.
Sedale: Can you talk about e cams real fast and just say what that is and Yes. Maybe a little bit about it?
Andrea: Yeah. So a few years ago the Energy Commission. Actually develops a, an kind of an updated system for how to manage grants. And it has taken into account a lot of lessons learned over the years. So it’s streamlined a lot of things.
It’s made the budgets more user friendly and they have E C A S’S Energy Commission Agreement Management System, and they have a whole website that has all kinds of tools and resources on it that will help you navigate. It has templates, it has a template for your monthly call form, a template for your quarterly report.
It has a really useful form called Changes to Grants, and it has a level of approval on notification chart, a lot of times people get worried about, oh no, what if something happens? We have to make this big change to our project halfway through. Or maybe when we’re first starting, there’s a notifica.
The notification chart breaks it all down in terms of what kind of change you’re making, who has to approve it, and how big a lift that’s gonna be. There’s a lot of things that the CAM themselves can actually approve without having to go through a whole amendment process. Amendments sound really challenging, but honestly they’re pretty straightforward and the cam is there to guide you through it.
So don’t be freaked out if you have to go through an amendment it. Hopefully you don’t, but it isn’t that uncommon. So like it, it’s, you can get through an amendment successfully, keep the project moving forward and the cam is there to help you navigate that. A lot of times they’re gonna work with you on what the amendment documentation needs to be and they’re gonna ask questions before it ever gets moved up the chain.
So hopefully by the time it’s moved up the chain, anything that’s gonna be a red flag has already been.
Sedale: Things that we talk about a lot is the fact that you can plan and should request budget for project management within your within your grant. And I, we don’t have to go too deep into this, but I wondered if you could touch on high level, how you should think about scoping and budgeting for project management with your grant.
Andrea: Yeah. First thing is to review the funding opportunity announcement and make sure that grant administration costs are an allowable reimbursable cost. Most CCD funding programs allow it, but I know that the F PIP program doesn’t. So under that program, you can only do equipment costs and measurement and verification.
Double check. You can include it first in your budget and if you can, as a rule of thumb, we generally expect that 5% of the total project cost should be included for project management alone. So you can up that as your total project goes bigger, the side of project management becomes a little bit bigger as.
Sedale: That was great advice. And any thoughts on just doing this internally versus hiring it out? What should people be thinking about? How do you start making those decisions?
Andrea: Cost is a big one. Getting an external firm to manage your grant is gonna be more expensive.
But if you’re doing a really complicated project where you need your folks to be focused on what is going on, that may actually weigh out in the end, if you have the budget to make that choice, you definitely need someone who is focused on managing the grant. So whether it’s someone on your team or someone outside of your team,
Sedale: you mean it be the grant writer.
It shouldn’t be that same person.
Andrea: No. And it shouldn’t be the person who’s like the main technical lead either. That person is gonna have their hands full. When it comes to that, like you gotta have someone who’s looking at this and looking at how this incorporates into your overall project schedule and the overall goals for your project and things that are happening on a day-to-day basis that are changing.
The more. In tune that person is with what’s going on the ground, the better they’re gonna be able to represent that to the energy commission. So when we do third party grant management for our clients, we have regular meetings with people who are actually working on the project. A lot of times we’re incorporated into an existing meeting so we can be a fly on the wall if we need to be, or, and then have more targeted meetings with folks that we need specific information as needed.
Sedale: That’s great. Are there any thoughts on qualifying, so you’ve decided, hey, we’re gonna hire a third party to go do this project management work for us with the Energy Commission. A Any thoughts on qualifying those candidates questions that you would have people ask or just yeah, guidance
Andrea: I think having familiarity with public funding is gonna be really key there. And even if they haven’t managed a publicly funded grant, if they’re familiar with what goes into the scope? Of a proposal that’s a great place to start from. The grant management isn’t the same as like traditional project management, so I wouldn’t look for someone who has like a really strong project management background and say construction.
They may actually be frustrated by the lack of. Oversight. They have to control the whole project on their own because that’s probably what they’re used to. A good, strong administrative background. A huge part is being able to deal with diverse stakeholders. So you want someone who’s able to be a leader in a group where, people aren’t all speaking the same language.
A lot of what we end up doing is taking very complex information and communicating to people in a more clear and concise and layperson terms. We take really complicated projects and communicate those to people who maybe don’t have any background in this at all. And that could even be your cam.
Some of the energy commission staff have a really technical background and some don’t. And so sometimes it’s the CAM that you’re really educating on what the project is, what the technology is. So being able to bridge the gap there and be a really strong communicator and a leader with diverse stakeholders and teams is a critical part of being effective as a project manager on a grant like.
Sedale: And let’s drill down a bit. This webinar, after all is about Energy Commission grants, and I imagine that there’s folks on the call today who maybe have done grant writing, but or project management or maybe have received grants from other agencies or other groups. What, it.
What’s unique about the Energy Commission, and maybe you could go through some of the unique terms or platforms that the Energy Commission has. We’ve talked about e cams, we’ve talked about what a CAM is. Can you like elaborate or illuminate a little bit of, what’s unique about the Energy Commission and how you engage with them from a project management standpoint?
Andrea: I think the Energy Commission, because of the amount of public funding they’ve been in, California has the most like up-to-date systems overall. They’ve been doing this for quite a while and in California we’ve seen a lot of the other public and state funds adopt a lot of the similar process to what the California Energy Commission does.
Their application process has become really streamlined. You really know what to expect when you’re coming into it, and they are focused on continually improving the process for both the those who are managing it from their end, the cams as well as the recipients. One of the significant things they’ve added in the last few years is they add.
Ombuds person who everyone has access to. If you’re a recipient, you have access to the ombuds person. So if you’re running into challenges where maybe you’ve had a challenge with the cam and you’ve elevated that and you’re still just like things aren’t moving forward that’s a third party that you can talk to who actually has the ability to work behind the scenes and figure out, okay, what’s happening?
Why aren’t things going well? And they can be an advocate to help keep the project moving forward. Other than that, it’s really the types of things that the different entities in California manage what they fund. So CARB and the Energy Commission fund different sides of the same technologies a lot of the time.
So CARB is really overseeing the emissions side. And then cc’s handling energy. Yeah.
Sedale: CARB is the California Air Resources Board for those That’s right. People that might not know. Yeah. No, that’s go ahead. Sorry.
Andrea: Yeah, so the c e C will often fund things like infrastructure projects where you’re going to develop a way to power what you’re doing.
Whereas the air resources, the California Resources Board will fund the equipment that is using that infrastructure. So they try to work on different sides of it so their funding isn’t overlapping and hopefully working
That’s great to understand. Let’s open it up to a few questions here.
There’s some good ones that have been coming in. We ah, this one we’ll just redefine this use the acronym for the word cam what is, what’s, can you just do a quick, double down on what the, what a cam is and what they do and why they’re important? Yes.
Andrea: Commissioning agreement manager, they receive your project as their direct assignment, and they’re going to be your main point of contact.
During the entire project. So you’re gonna submit, you’re gonna have a monthly call with them. You’re gonna submit all your quarter reports and invoices to them. They’re in charge of cprs, which are critical project reviews. They’re pretty standard. They oversee changes to the schedule and timeline of the project.
And they’re really your first point of contact for any question you have. They’re the one you’re gonna. And if they don’t know the answer, they’re gonna find it for you if they need to go to someone else at the Energy Commission. So you don’t have to run around trying to find the right person with the right answer for you.
Sedale: Awesome, great answer. Another very, this is a specific question. There’s a couple things that I’ll ask you to unpack here. There’s a c q a worksheet that we need to fill out. However, I believe our project is too small to qualify for C Q A. How do I develop whether my project has to go through a c q process?
So maybe if you could define se equa first. And then if you could speak to this a little bit, that’d be great. I
Andrea: have to google the acronym for that. Cause that’s one I always shorten, so se is, The California something or other Environmental Quality Act. So you may have heard of npa, which is the National Environmental Policy Act.
I think it’s the same thing, but it’s for California, so it’s to make sure that any project. That is happening is evaluated if it’s going to have an impact on the environment. So that means an impact to our air and impact to our water, and impact to our soil. So if your project is going to create any type of pollution, then what’s needed is an environmental impact report.
So most projects. Don’t you need those in my experience, and a lot of times it’s just making sure that you know what type of permitting is needed. So you can go through your c q worksheet and see what you know about it, and then it’s a good idea to talk with whoever’s in charge of permitting for the location where your project is going to happen.
Oftentimes you can find that through the city. Planning or building department. And from there, what you really need is for them to understand what your project is and then give their opinion of will your project have any impact to the environment. And so what they can provide is an email or a letter that states that if.
C Q was enacted. They’re the lead agency, but they believe that C Q A would not be triggered by this project. What the CC needs is for you to identify who the lead agency is for the location where you’re at, because by default if you don’t do that, the CC becomes a lead agency and they don’t wanna be the lead agency.
So finding out who has jurisdiction over the location is key, and then working with them to determine does squ get triggered by what you’re doing? There’s a lot of nuances to it. It can be pretty complicated. It is an area where getting some outside expert. Help is advised especially if your co project is particularly complicated and potentially could create some type of pollution and an environmental impact report does take some time to put together.
So that’s something you probably would wanna have in pocket if you think that C is gonna be triggered by your project before you apply. Awesome.
Sedale: Let’s see. Great questions everyone, and feel free to say, but I want
Andrea: a caveat. I’m not a single Q expert, so
Sedale: always the caveats is this is not legal advice for not attorneys, right? And for educational purposes only. There are there are sections of the application that cover the com cover, community engagement and community-based organization involvement.
Can you speak to what kinds of things the c e C is looking for in that section? This is more of a sort of like strategy in terms of applying for funding question, I think. But community engagement is a super important part of a lot of projects and I’d love to hear your thoughts overall and Andrea on that.
Andrea: Yeah. It’s becoming a more and more integral part. It’s now becoming scored. They’re wanting to see smart milestones around that Public funding is becoming more readily available, especially around sustainable technologies. It’s also becoming more competitive. So this is an area to actually give some pre-planning and thought into.
Who are the people who are gonna be impacted by your project directly? Who are the community organizations in your area that maybe care about. The impacts of your project. There may be local environmental groups. There may be local community groups that are already talking about and concerned about the area that you’re going to be impacting within their communities, if possible.
Get those people involved in what’s going on before you’re even applying. A lot of especially if you’re doing something that’s environmentally based, getting some information support out there and collaboration happening early on makes that a much stronger case. It’s much better to have taken into consideration community opinion before designing a project than after it’s receiv.
Much more favorably. So if those people, if those groups already exist, where you’re at, where the project’s gonna be located figuring out how to partner with ’em makes it a much more enriching progre project for you and for the community. And eventually I think it really builds both better projects better technology overall cuz you’re taking into account the user Those who are impacted early on and what those things look like can really vary.
It could be workshops, it could be ribbon cuttings where people actually get to come on site and see what’s going on. It could be, developing. Local commissions or being part of local commissions around certain topics are relevant to your project and the community. There’s a lot of options and it should be tailored to what your project is, what your technology is, and where you’re located.
Sedale: What is the best way to illustrate community benefits of a low T R L R and D project? Often the line connecting an r and d project and a file community benefit is long. Given the new emphasis on Justice 40 and detailed community benefits plan requirements, what are the best strategies to address this as part of an application for a project?
Andrea: not really something I can answer. We actually, we have strategists to work on exactly that type of thing, and it is often very specific to your actual project. Yeah.
Sedale: Yeah. I think, we’ve touched on this a little bit with the last question and this one is a nice follow on to just illustrate something I think that is very important, which is that, to the extent possible, you should certainly be planning on doing community engagement.
And there’s a lot of different ways to do that, and it is very dependent on your on your application and like what you’re working on and all that stuff. I would say that’s a really specific one to throw perhaps to a very specific consultant who might be able to help you with that.
I think this is a really good question from from a different angle maybe. But there’s a question here. Do we have the ear of the executive team of the energy commission? I certainly do not, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the level of engagement and how to best go about, we talked a little bit about working with your cam.
We talked about working with your what’s the word? I don’t even know. The bus person. The Ombuds person. There we go. What, what kind of thinking should be done about, when you’ve got this project and you’re moving forward, how should you be engaging with the agency at large?
Is it all through the cam? I know that in the past we’ve also worked with the agencies to put out, press releases to highlight the project, and there’s been. Other activities that we’ve been engaged in. Is this all mostly run through the CAM or do you advo, do you, do you bring in other people to really engage the agency?
Andrea: We do bring in other people. Some of the clients we work with really, we lump that all under what we call socialization at momentum. And our client managers and our strategists work closely with our clients on doing that socialization piece. A lot of times this energy Commission wants to hear about what is out there, what projects do people need to have funded, what are the things that are happening already that the public needs, the public wants, like local, the local entrepreneurs and developers who already have ideas.
And so we help get those meetings with the appropriate people at the Energy Commission. So socializing project ideas ahead of time can really help. Define funding as the energy commission looks at what’s out there, cuz they want to create programs that actually are specific to what do Californians need right now?
What are Californians developing right now? And so if that information is being shared, then. The applications are more successful. The funding programs are defined in a way that really work with the projects that exist, and it’s a, it can be a key piece of, especially bringing on new technology.
So the CAM actually is only involved once your project has been contracted. So prior to that, it may. Talking to the specific department that you’re interested in, finding out who the head of that department is asking for meetings with people there. And that’s something that our team does for our clients ahead of going after an application occasionally.
Sedale: Good to know. Would you say, so we, as we’ve been unpacking project management here it does sound like. In some cases you may even engage ahead of like a contract being in place to manage a project. Is that fair to say? Or do you find, like most of your engagements are, it’s been contracted and we’re just focusing on this?
Andrea: We actually offer services beyond just grant management. So it’s definitely clients who come to us for those things have additional contracts with us, and we generally call those client services or campaign services. And so we do a holistic approach. So sometimes we’re working with clients for months or years before they have a project we’re managing for them.
We take them from ideation to. What public funding works for what they’re doing, socializing that with the right agencies, writing the applications. And then once the applications are awarded, then we move into grant management at that point. So grant management is really one spoke in the hub, I guess you would say, of the overall picture that we work with.
Sedale: There’s another question here that I think is relevant and interesting, which. What we talked a little bit about working with subcontractors on projects what, what can companies do to get involved as like a subcontractor? Any thoughts on like the best ways to approach that relationship?
And I guess the other question I would ask real quick, sorry, is that, yeah. Is that, do you see projects that, pull in a contract and then go.
Subcontractors or are most of the CEC projects that you are working on? They come to the table with the subcontractors already proposed and identified.
Andrea: Subcontractors can be included in the budget as T B D, so you don’t always have to know who your subcontractor is going in. So if you don’t have that identified early on, you can take the time to figure that out.
That’s particularly critical for some. Some groups, because some actually have to go through a competitive bid process and they need the project to have gone along a lot further before they can identify who the contractor’s gonna be for that. So it does allow for that. It does allow for that.
I think if you have a subcontractor who’s going to be a key team partner they’re gonna play a significant role in the project. Having those identified early is really helpful. It isn’t a make it or break it, you can adjust those things at the time that you get under contract. You can make a lot of changes when you get to the point where you’re getting under contract.
The cam will help you work through those, make sure you’re adhering to everything that’s required. The one thing you can’t change is anything that would change how your application would’ve been scored. That’s the main thing that really can’t be changed is anything would impact that everything.
Can be negotiated. So in terms of subcontractors, like whether you have ’em identified now or later, it, I think the more important thing is what risk is it putting your project at to not know who that partner is right now? If it’s a big role, that may be a key to whether the project is successful or not.
And then what was the second half of your question? I did the first part, but I lost the train of it.
Sedale: Yeah, no, it’s all good. It was more about how do you become a subcontractor, right? So maybe, you’re not like in a position or maybe just don’t have the things that you need to do, go apply for something, you’d be a great partner.
Andrea: I believe the, there are public lists of people who are attending the workshops and webinars that the c e C puts out, and I think there are lists you can get on, and that’s often how people find partners is by those lists of who else is interested in this current opportunity. So look into those things.
I’m sorry, I don’t know the exact term of it. That’s a little preliminary to where I usually jump into the process here, but I know they exist and that’s one way to see who else is out there working in the same realm as you and might wanna partner on a project. Coalition projects are awesome.
They’re a great way to bring together like-minded groups that all have a. A similar goal in mind and maybe are working at it from different angles so you can bring it together, the developers with the deployers and have a demonstration project where you’re also pushing forward technology.
Those are really they’re a lot of fun to work on, a lot of moving parts. It also opens the door to a larger award size, easier cost. Allocation, which is a big key of Energy Commission grants, is that cost match. You really wanna know where that’s coming from early on.
You want that to come in at the same rate, hopefully that you’re asking for reimbursements, cuz recovering from that later on can be pretty challenging. If you didn’t do your cost matches, you were asking for reimbursements, going back and doing that later is a huge headache. Keep that in mind as you’re thinking about partnering too.
That means the cost share is shared over or more entities, which can be relieve some of the burden.
Sedale: Yeah. I want to do, we, this webinar is very specifically about project management and so I wanted to maybe, in our last 10 minutes here, I wanted to look at a couple case studies that you might be interested in sharing of, what are the components that we’ve talked a lot about, just all these frameworks and such more Theoretically almost what if you could outline maybe some things that come together to make a project outcome good and, speak a little bit to what happened.
Or if you wanna go the other direction and say here’s a bunch of red flags that happened and this was a disaster. Either way. But I’d love to hear just like maybe and you can be as specific or non-specific as you like, but. Some case study framing of all of this inaction, if you don’t mind
Sure. Yeah. I’ve worked on projects where literally everything that could go wrong did go wrong, but the project was successful in the end. And the keys to that, like we had the timeline, I think is one of the biggest challenges from the time you create the idea for your project to the time it gets funded, to the time it kicks off that timeline can.
A year, and so everybody who you expect to be part of the project at the beginning may have changed a bit by the time you actually get funded and you’re actually like breaking ground and moving forward on the project, especially when you’re in a really innovative space where, Small companies are developing really innovative technologies that are maybe getting bought up by bigger companies.
And that happens. And one of the demonstration projects, that was one of the first projects I worked on, we had that happen multiple times where one company was buying another company and entities changed and the vendor didn’t even make that equipment that we needed to purchase for the project anymore.
Those things can be a nightmare, but we. We had some lessons learned by not being as communicative as we should have been upfront when the first one happened. And what we learned from that was that we needed to trust our cam more and ha work with them as a partner working through those challenges.
And so the next time it came up, we were talking about it early on. Like this equipment is no longer available here, or this demonstrator can no longer demonstrate. So we figure out, okay, we’re gonna replace that demonstrator with a demonstrator, a different demonstrator. Is there another team on the project who’s already involved that wants this equipment?
Or do we need to find someone from the outside? So there were a lot of options that we were able to explore to keep things moving. And then the pandemic happened and the pandemic. Like that created all different kinds of problems, right? Like supply chain issues of things like not showing up literally for a year.
Like we were waiting for a battery for chi from China for a year to show up so we could finish the stupid forklift. And it’s like you can’t make this stuff up. There’s no way to plan. Ahead of time for a pandemic that’s gonna delay the receipt of a battery for a year. You have to work with, through those things, with the cam roll, with the flow.
Sometimes there are alternative solutions and sometimes there are not. Like you’re too far down the road of design and you really can’t switch to a different component at that point. Flexibility and communication throughout the whole process. Even when you hit walls where you’re like, I don’t think this is surmountable.
Like maybe you lose your entire site host location Those things actually aren’t insurmountable. We lost the site host on a project last year. Took us about a year to find another host, but the Energy Commission was willing to work through us with it. And so a year later, the project is now getting started with a different site host that’s gonna demonstrate the technology.
But what seemed like insurmountable thing at one point was a absolutely overcome and projects moving forward. So you. They want us to be successful. They want the funds to go to where they were intended to be used. So there’s a lot of things that might be challenging, but they can be navigated. And that takes a lot of persistence.
Thinking creatively, thinking outside the box, trying different avenues, different options, and figuring out like what path actually opens up for you in the.
Sedale: A lot of the talking that we do in particular, I think just from a first principal’s basis, communication is, really key to everything. And it’s, I always think that it’s funny that grant. The whole grant process is an exercising communication, right? First you’re trying to communicate that, hey, we’re a good partner and you should give us funding for this thing.
And then you’re trying to communicate that, oh, we’re doing the thing. And, ultimately you’re gonna communicate about the thing you did, hopefully. And it, it is really clutched to moving that process forward. And I appreciate the illustrations. I, and, thank you for spending time with us today.
What any parting wisdom from you about this journey of managing Energy Commission grants in particular. And the reason we did this webinar is one, we, we recognize that there’s just a lot of money coming. To the industry from the Energy Commission, and it is a really popular subject.
But yeah. Thoughts, any calls to action or parting wisdom that you’d like to share as we wrap up in the last seven minutes here,
Andrea: don’t underestimate the importance of managing the grant side. Don’t underestimate the amount of time and commitment it’s gonna take for someone to do that.
So think about that proactively ahead of time. Avoid including labor in your budgets if you can. Labor is really hard to track. There are really specific metrics you have to have in place to track all of the time of anyone that you’re. Actually reimbursing labor on. It’s not just their time in the project, it’s all of their working time.
So if you aren’t already a company that needs to track hours for people, that means you’re gonna be implementing a totally new system. And if you have included labor in your budget, don’t worry. You can change it down the line. If you’re already, if you’re already in this situation, you’re going, oh no, I did all labor.
All of our reimbursables are based on. Paying people’s salaries, you can change that. And the critical times where you can change that when you’re getting under contract is before you go to the business meeting where your award will be approved. So from the time they notify you that you’ve received an award to the time it goes to the business meeting, that whole period, you can make changes to budget.
You can make changes to scope, you can make changes to schedule. That’s the easiest time to make them. After that, a lot of it still can be changed, but it’s not quite as easy Think about it at that point, once you get to business meeting, you don’t wanna make any more changes until you have a signed contract.
You will get delayed by months if you make changes after business meeting, get the contract signed, and then that’s the point where it becomes easy to make changes again. Changes to deadlines are always easy, so you wanna be always forward thinking you can. Have this be a secondary a secondary thought.
You’ve gotta be proactive about thinking about what’s coming up in the grant, what are hap, what is happening in the next week, the next month, and the next quarter at all times.
Sedale: I love that. That is some great intentionality and I, I do think it’s incredibly important. We talk a lot about being proactive instead of reactive to this space and how important that is in being successful here.
Thank you so much for sharing your your thoughts and experience. Really appreciate you joining us today and appreciate that call to action just for the folks on the On the call, we will be sending out a recording of this as mentioned. I know that there’s a lot of interesting resources mentioned, and I’ll be in touch with Andrea to get some of that in our follow up email.
So thank you all for joining us. Really appreciate it. Feel free you can go check out Momentum if you wanna learn more about [email protected]. And there’s a lot of great resources on their website. Obviously, you can go visit open. And check out what we have to offer. But I want to just close by saying thank you for joining us and that we will address, any questions that came in that maybe weren’t specifically about this.
We’ll send over to our team and have them send you all some follow up. So thank you all for participating and we will see you next time. Thanks for having me. Si. Thanks. Bye.