Mark Lieberman
Key Points

Schools Can Use These Little-Known, Unlimited Funds to Make Their Buildings Greener

Hopkins Academy in Hadley, Mass., seeks federal funds for a greener future. Learn how 'direct pay' can help schools reduce their environmental footprint with renewable energy systems. Explore the Inflation Reduction Act's hidden opportunity.

Hopkins Academy—a public middle and high school serving a few hundred students in Hadley, Mass.—needs a new furnace and a new roof. But the elected school committee has struggled for years to find the right combination of funds and contractors for a project they hope will reduce the 70-year-old building’s environmental footprint.

Enter Sara Ross, co-founder of Undaunted K-12, a nonprofit supporting schools’ efforts to transition to clean energy. At a statewide conference for school committee leaders, Ross led a session about using federal funds to pay for green infrastructure.

“What I learned at that session really blew my mind,” said Humera Fasihuddin, chair of the Hadley school committee.

She’s likely not alone. The federal government is currently offering funds that Ross believes could be a lifeline for hundreds of districts nationwide that desperately need to upgrade their buildings to withstand the oncoming effects of climate change: extreme heat, unpredictable storms, rampant wildfires, and devastating flooding.

But those funds, tucked inside the sweeping climate change legislation Congress approved a year ago known as the Inflation Reduction Act, have flown under the radar. That may be because the mechanism for receiving them isn’t one school districts typically use.

Rather than applying for and securing grants or loans to pay for projects in the works, this new mechanism—known as “direct pay”—supplies school districts with the equivalent of tax credits for work they’ve already completed and paid for.

Every school district in the country is eligible for the federal government to cover 30 percent of the cost to install new building systems driven by renewable energy, including solar or geothermal. There’s no cap on the cost of individual projects and no limit to how much the federal government will dole out in the aggregate over the next decade-plus.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Our Impact

Taking action for meaningful progress.

We are laying the groundwork to bring our legion of companies to a prescribed level of excellence so we can work in tandem to build efficiency into our operations and the built environment.
View Report