TL,DR: This guide will give you all the tools you need to be successful in your pursuit of grant funding from the California Energy Commission (CEC). It will outline best practices for accessing opportunities, engaging agencies, and developing your proposal. 


  • Agency Overview
  • Mission
  • How Much Funding Is Available


  • Step 1: Finding a Solicitation
  • Step 2: Getting Registered for GSS
  • Step 3: Responding To The Opportunity
    • Pre-Application Workshops
  • Step 4: Grant Management
    • Contracting, Accounting, & Audits
    • Reporting
    • Grant Ombudsman


  • Helpful Links
  • Templates & Examples


Agency Overview

California has some of the most ambitious climate and energy goals in the world. Achieving these goals while ensuring the state’s energy systems remain accessible, reliable, safe, and affordable requires thoughtful planning and the identification of policy solutions to some of today’s toughest challenges. As the state’s primary energy policy and planning agency, the California Energy Commission plays a critical role in creating the energy system of the future—one that is clean, is modern, and ensures the fifth largest economy in the world continues to thrive. established a 100 percent zero-carbon energy-planning goal by 2045.

Technology innovation in California is needed to create a modern energy system that can power the world’s fifth largest economy in ways that are cleaner, safer, more affordable, and reliable. Since 1975, the California Energy Commission has advanced innovation through its energy research and development programs. Energy Commission research has generated billions of dollars in energy cost savings for California ratepayers, helped create new businesses and thousands of jobs, and attracted almost $2 billion in private and federal investments.


Energy Commission research and development programs bridge the gap between the laboratory and the market, transforming tomorrow’s technologies into today’s reality. Investments are focused on projects that aim to:

  • Bring new clean energy technologies and related benefits to disadvantaged and low-income communities.
  • Use climate science for energy planning decisions.
  • Enable a more decarbonized and decentralized electric grid.
  • Maintain critical operations and services during grid outages, extreme weather events, and catastrophes.
  • Address vulnerabilities in the natural gas infrastructure.
  • Develop scalable technology solutions for the industrial and agricultural sectors.
  • Advance energy efficiency solutions in homes and businesses.
  • Address product gaps in the energy storage market.
  • Reduce the cost of renewable generation.
  • Advance low-carbon transportation technologies.
  • Create a vibrant ecosystem where entrepreneurs may thrive.

How Much Funding Is Available

Energy Commission funding is deployed across a diverse portfolio. Focus areas include electricity, natural gas, food processing, and research planning.

Electricity System

The Energy Commission invests approximately $130 million a year for electric system research and development projects through the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program. These funds support innovative projects that have the potential to provide safer, lower-cost, cleaner, and more efficient and reliable electricity for investor-owned utility ratepayers.

Natural Gas System

The Energy Commission’s Natural Gas research and development program funds innovative projects to improve the state’s natural gas system. These investments, which total more than $20 million a year, complement electric system improvements to reduce energy use and costs, improve reliability and safety, and reduce environmental impacts.

Reducing Energy Costs in Food Processing

Food Production Investment Program is part of the California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of carbon cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities. The program will provide approximately $118 million in funding to the food processing sector, to accelerate the adoption of state-of-the-art technologies that can substantially reduce energy use and costs, and the associated GHG emissions.

Research Planning, Implementation, and Success

The Energy Commission’s research investments are attracting additional private and public sector funding. The California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development Initiative, or CalSEED, provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to apply for seed funding to move their invention through the proof-of-concept stage. To date, 109 companies have attracted $28 million in private investment, and $6 million in public funds.

The Energy Commission is working to further involve small businesses, women, minorities, and disabled veterans in its energy innovation projects. The Energy Commission allocates a minimum of 25 percent of EPIC technology demonstration and deployment funds to projects located in and benefitting disadvantaged communities and an additional 10 percent for projects located in and benefitting low-income communities.

You can find a rich library of resources for these programs on The California Energy Commission website. We encourage you to reach out and explore this ecosystem. You can also search a comprehensive database of grants including CEC opportunities on OpenGrants. Create a free account here.


Step 1: Finding A Solicitation

The California Energy Commission issues a variety of solicitations on their website. You can find and track them by visiting the funding page here: CEC Funding Opportunities

You will note that each listing has a different designation. They are typically structured in the following manner ABC-12-345. You can ignore the numbers for the most part, just be aware that the following three letter acronyms symbolize the following;

  • GFO – Grant Funding Opportunity
  •  RFQ – Request for Qualification
  •  RFP – Request for Proposal
  •  PON – Program Opportunity Notice
  •  IFB – Invitations for Bid

As a startup you may want to focus on all of these. However, this guide deals with responding to GFO’s in particular. If you are looking to do business with the CEC in a contracting capacity, we work with an amazing partner who can help you streamline that process. 

While finding the right solicitation may seem daunting, here are two great resources that the CEC has developed to help you identify the perfect project for you.

  1. The Solicitations Website – The CEC does a great job of publishing opportunities and organizing the information to be accessible to everyone. 
  2. Empower Innovation – An online community connecting startups and project partners. Get timely leads on funding and new connections to accelerate your work and advance a clean economy for all.

The tools above can help you find the perfect project to lead or partner on. Partnering is a great way to get grant funding without having to become a lead applicant and take charge of the grant writing and management process yourself. 

Every solicitation has a clearly defined eligibility criteria. Read a solicitation closely to understand if it is a good fit. Once you have analyzed the solicitation, be sure to attend (virtually) any pre-application workshops. These will give you agency contacts and networking opportunities, as well as an opportunity to ask any questions you may have.

Step 2: Getting Registered For GSS

The preferred method of delivery of most grant applications to CEC is via the Energy Commission Grant Solicitation System, available at: This online tool allows applicants to submit their electronic documents to the CEC prior to the date and time specified in this solicitation. 

Electronic files must be in Microsoft Word XP (.doc format) and Excel Office Suite formats unless originally provided in the solicitation in another format. (Pro Tip: Google Docs and Sheets will export to these formats if you don’t want to spend money on Microsoft Office)  Attachments requiring signatures may be scanned and submitted in PDF format.  Completed Budget Forms, Attachment 5, must be in Excel format.  The system will not allow applications to be submitted after the application due date and time.

First time users must register as a new user to access the system. Applicants will receive a confirmation email after all required documents have been successfully uploaded.  A tutorial of the system will be provided at the pre-application workshops and you may contact the Commission Agreement Officer identified in the Questions section of the solicitation for more assistance.

You can also access a tutorial of the system here: GSS How To Apply

Step 3: Responding To The Opportunity

Before writing a proposal you must first understand how it will be evaluated as the proposal that you submit, must be responsive to these criteria. All solicitations contain a section where the evaluation criteria are discussed – usually placed somewhere towards the end of the solicitation document.

The CEC also provides useful background information in their solicitations, typically near the beginning of the document. Leverage this to ensure that your narrative is compelling and relevant to the solicitation. Do your research to understand the goals and objectives of the solicitation and how they related to the larger agency goals and objectives. 

By reading the evaluation criteria and background before you begin proposal preparation, you will understand those items that you must address thoroughly within your proposal. Successful applicants assess “win themes” based on the criteria. Careful examination surfaces gaps in your approach and allows companies to find a good fit. The graphic above illustrates our process to developing a winning solicitation. Here are a few additional tips; 

  • Get Organized – We love Asana but really a whiteboard will work. Get a system, choose some tools, make a plan and stick to it. Writing a great is going to take longer and be harder than you think.
  • Engage Your Team – Pull in partners and engage your team as early as possible. You will need them for everything from letters of support to detailed feedback on technical aspects of your proposal. 
  • Focus – Get really clear about the project. Grants are structured around discreet projects with a start, middle and end. The more clarity you and your team have, the better your proposal will be. 

The California Energy Commission has very specific requirements in their solicitation documents. These go as far as to define fonts and margins on pages. Read the solicitation very close to understand the rules.  

Pre-Application Workshops

If you are planning on applying for a grant, tune in to the pre-application workshop. You can find these on the CEC website. Workshop details are also typically listed in the solicitation itself. These workshops are critical to your success, because they allow you to ask questions, establish rapport with the team working on the solicitation and to possibly network and partner with other teams. 

It is important to note that these grant programs are developed by human beings with limited tools and often limited understanding of your space. Comments and feedback from experts can result in amendments and adjustments to a solicitation. Participating in a collaborative way from an early stage in the solicitation process will establish you and your team as an ally and resource to the agency, which is a good position to be in. 

Applicants are responsible for carefully reading the solicitation, asking appropriate questions in a timely manner, ensuring that all solicitation requirements are met, submitting all required responses in a complete manner by the required date and time, and carefully rereading the solicitation before submitting an application

Step 4: Grant Management 

Contracting, Accounting & Audits

Your grant will ultimately be a contractual relationship with you and the California Energy Commission. The only advice we will give here is: Have your attorney review your contract! 

We are not attorneys, and this is not legal advice. Consult with your attorney and executive team about every aspect of contracting, accounting and audits. 

Typically your contract will expose your company to liability, audits and will require various financial controls and processes be implemented. These can range from basic GAAP concepts to implementing time tracking for all employees. Review your contract and obligations carefully with your attorney and executive team before signing. 


The CEC frequently requires monthly reporting on all grant projects. These reports typically include a narrative at a minimum, but may be coupled with an invoice. The process for this and other reporting meetings will all be outlined in your agreement with the CEC.

You will also typically be required to submit a final report.

Grant Ombudsman

The California Energy Commission’s grants ombudsman is an independent and confidential resource to grant recipients. The ombudsman is an impartial liaison who will convey feedback from grant recipients to the Energy Commission Chair and other commissioners. 

The feedback that the ombudsman receives from grant recipients helps ensure that:

  • The Energy Commission’s grant programs are effective and efficient.
  • The Energy Commission’s grant processes are clear and understandable.
  • Grant recipients have a positive experience with the Energy Commission.

Grant recipients may confide in the ombudsman without concern for reprisals because the comments will be relayed without attribution to the grant recipient. A grant recipient may request that his or her comments be attributable. The ombudsman will not testify about information received unless required by law. The ombudsman will not discuss matters in litigation or make decisions or legal determinations for the Energy Commission. Communications with the ombudsman will not suspend or otherwise affect any statutory, regulatory, or other applicable deadlines.


Helpful Links

A quick list of curated resources

Get Involved

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We’ve always planned on including our community as financial partners in this venture. For that reason, contractors on our platform have access to earn $GRANT and can receive equity in the company. Accredited investors can purchase $GRANT as well.

We hope you consider joining our journey and invest in OpenGrants.