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Title 7Subtitle BChapter XVIIPart 1709Subpart B → §1709.123

Title 7: Agriculture
Subpart B—RUS High Energy Cost Grant Program

§1709.123   Evaluation criteria and weights.

Link to an amendment published at 80 FR 9860, Feb. 24, 2015.

(a) Establishing evaluation criteria and weights. The grant announcement will establish the evaluation criteria and weights to be used in ranking the grant proposals submitted. Unless supplemented in the grant announcement, the criteria listed in this section will be used to evaluate proposals submitted under this program. Additional criteria may be included in the grant announcement. In establishing evaluation criteria and weights, the total points that may be awarded for project design and technical merit criteria shall not be less than 65 percent of the total available points, and the total points awarded for priority criteria shall not be more than 35 percent of the total available points. The distribution of points to be awarded per criterion will be identified in the grant announcement.

(b) Project design and technical merit. In reviewing the grant proposal's project design and technical merit, reviewers will consider the soundness of the applicant's approach, the project's technical and financial feasibility, the adequacy of financial and other resources, the capabilities and experience of the applicant and its project management team, the project goals, and identified community needs and benefits. Points will be awarded under the following project elements:

(1) Comprehensiveness and feasibility. Reviewers will assess the technical and economic feasibility of the project and how well its goals and objectives address the challenges of the eligible communities. The panel will review the proposed design, construction, equipment and materials for the proposed energy facilities to determine technical feasibility. Reviewers may propose additional conditions on the grant award to assure that the project is technically sound. Budgets will be reviewed for completeness and the strength of non-Federal funding commitments. Points may not be awarded unless sufficient detail is provided to determine whether or not funds are being used for qualified purposes. Reviewers will consider the adequacy of the applicant's budget and resources to carry out the project as proposed. Reviewers will also evaluate how the applicant proposes to manage available resources such as grant funds, income generated from the facilities and any other financing sources to maintain and operate a financially viable project once the grant period has ended. Reviewers must make a finding of operational sustainability for any points to be awarded. Projects for which future grant funding is likely to be required in order to assure ongoing operations will not receive any points.

(2) Demonstrated experience. Reviewers will consider whether the applicant or its project team have demonstrated experience in successfully administering and carrying out projects that are comparable to that proposed in the application. The reviewers may assign a higher point score to proposals that develop the internal capacity to provide or improve energy services in the eligible communities over other proposals that rely extensively on temporary outside contractors.

(3) Community needs. Reviewers will consider the applicant's assessment of community energy needs to be addressed by the proposed project as well as the severity of physical and economic challenges affecting the target communities. In determining whether one proposal should receive more points than another under this criterion, reviewers will consider the relative burdens placed on the communities and individual households by extremely high energy costs, the hardships created by limited access to reliable and affordable energy services and the availability of other resources to support or supplement the proposed grant funding.

(4) Project evaluation and performance measures. Reviewers will consider the applicant's suggested project evaluation and performance criteria. Reviewers may award higher points to criteria that are quantifiable, directly relevant to project goals, and reflect serious consideration than to more subjective performance criteria that do not incorporate variables that reflect a reduction in energy cost or improvement in service.

(5) Coordination with rural development initiatives. Proposals that include documentation confirming coordination with State rural development initiatives may be credited points for this criterion.

(c) Priority considerations. Subject to the limitation in paragraph (a) of this section, evaluation points may also be awarded for projects that advance identified priority interests identified in the grant announcement to assist the Agency in selecting among competing projects when the amount of funding requests exceed available funds. The grant announcement may incorporate all or some of the priority criteria listed below, and as discussed in paragraph (a) of this section, the grant announcement may supplement these criteria. The announcement will also specify the points that will be awarded to qualifying applications under these priority criteria.

(1) Community economic hardship. Economic hardship points may be awarded where the median household income for the target community is significantly below the State average or where the target community suffers from economic conditions that severely constrain its ability to provide or improve energy facilities serving the community. Applicants must describe in detail and document conditions creating severe community economic hardship in the proposal.

(2) Rurality. Priority consideration may be given to proposals that serve smaller rural communities. Applications will be scored based on the population of the largest incorporated cities, towns or villages or census designated places included within the grant's proposed target area as determined using the latest available population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

(3) Unserved energy needs. Points may be awarded to projects that extend or improve electric or other energy services to eligible communities or areas of eligible communities that do not have reliable centralized or commercial service.

(4) Imminent hazard. Additional points may be awarded for projects that correct a condition posing an imminent hazard to public safety, public welfare, the environment, or to a critical community or residential energy facility in immediate danger of failure because of a deteriorated condition, capacity limitation, or damage from a natural disaster or accident.

(5) Cost sharing. Projects that evidence significant commitments of funds, contributed property, equipment, or other in kind support for the project may be awarded additional points for this criterion where the aggregate value of these contributions exceed ten percent of total eligible project costs.

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