Pilot FAQ

Submitting Ideas

What if I’m looking for proposal partners?

Contact us at connectedcommunities@tva.gov with an overview of your idea, and we’ll do our best to connect you to other organizations and communities that might benefit from it.

What if my organization is small and can’t meet the 30% match at the time of submission?

Any organization with confidence in their proposal is encouraged to apply; you do not need to have your match secured at the time of submission. If your proposal is selected, we are willing to work with you during the negotiation and contracting phase to account for the 30% match via in-kind services or securing funding elsewhere.

What if I have more than one idea or solution to offer? Can I make more than one submission? Is it possible to win multiple awards?

While there is no limit to how many submissions may be submitted by a single organization, we highly encourage all proposers to ensure each submission is comprehensively built out.

Additionally, TVA is striving to fund a diversity of applicant types, geographies, and project ideas. While organizations are welcome to submit multiple ideas across focus areas, it is unlikely that multiple awards will go to the same lead organization.

What if my idea doesn’t relate to one of the focus areas?

All pilot proposals must address one of our three focus areas at this time.

What if my pilot idea is related to multiple focus areas?

Please complete an application for the focus area that you think is best addressed by your pilot idea. The evaluation committee will assess how applications are categorized and will evaluate applications according to the focus area that they believe is most aligned with the pilot idea.

I’m having issues with the submission form. Can you help?

Yes, please email us at connectedcommunities@tva.gov with your submission ID and a description of the problem you are encountering and we will reach out to you within 48 hours to help you resolve the problem.

Evaluation

Who will review my submission, and how long will it take?

Submissions will be evaluated by committees comprised of representatives of stakeholders across the valley, including community organizations, colleges, local power companies, and more as well as representatives from TVA. Final selections will be announced within 6-8 weeks after the Call for Pilots closes.

How are submissions vetted? Who makes the judgement call about what ideas proceed?

Submissions will go through an initial screening to ensure they are complete, before the Evaluation Committee scores, deliberates, and finalizes rankings. The Evaluation Committee will present the top pilot candidates to the Steering Committee for endorsement. TVA will have the final say in which pilots are selected. Please see our evaluation criteria for more details about how pilots will be scored.

Is it possible to work with TVA to modify an application after its submission?

Yes! If you believe there may have been a mistake in your submission, please reach out to us at connectedcommunities@tya.gov with your submission ID and an explanation of the change that needs to be made. Please note that submissions are considered finalized when the Call for Pilots closes, regardless of completion status. Any changes must be made before the deadline.

Are the submissions made public?

While aggregate data, such as the number of submissions per focus area, may be made public, individual submissions will remain confidential.

If my pilot idea isn’t selected during this round, will it automatically be considered for funding in future rounds?

It is not guaranteed that there will be future rounds of funding. If there are, each round of funding will be evaluated separately, and you will need to re-submit your application to be considered in future rounds.

Funding

How is this funded?

This pilot grant opportunity is being funded in its entirety by TVA.

What are considered acceptable in-kind services for the 30% match?

Typical in-kind services include staff hours or donation of materials. If your organization would like to provide other in-kind services, please include a description and equivalent financial value in your submission. We are willing to negotiate with organizations that are selected.

When will the grant funding be available to selected proposers?

Funds will be distributed on a reimbursement basis upon achievement of project milestones. A portion of the award may be made available as an advance at the start of the project if there is demonstrated need.

What can the grant funding be spent on?

Funding is intended for Connected Community portion of projects, rather than infrastructure costs (e.g., for smart streetlights: sensors and connectivity, but not poles). A portion of the award may be used for pilot administration and overhead costs.

What types of financial documentation will be used to determine our organizations financial health if we are selected?

Documentation of a recent audit is preferred. If your organization has not had an audit performed recently, financial statements may be utilized instead.

Other Questions

What is the mission and vision of the Connected Communities initiative?

Mission: To foster community-driven solutions using information and technology to identify and address community needs and improve the quality of life in the Tennessee Valley.

Vision: A connected Tennessee Valley that provides equitable access to services, empowers its people and businesses, and promotes energy and environmental justice for all.

How is “energy and environmental justice” defined for the purposes of this opportunity?

As defined by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), environmental justice is "the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

We think that it is important that there is a common definition for environmental justice among federal entities, and we are using this definition as foundational to our understanding of the issues in this space.

Additionally, the DOE describes energy justice within the context of the clean energy transition. From the DOE's website on energy justice: "For far too long, communities of color and low-income communities have borne the brunt of pollution to the air, water, and soil they rely on to live and raise their families. The clean energy revolution must lift up these communities that have been left behind, and make sure those who have suffered the most are the first to benefit."

Through this Connected Communities initiative, our intent is to understand how technology and data solutions (e.g., smart thermostats or air quality sensors) can help address issues related to both energy justice and environmental justice. While Connected Communities solutions will not be able to tackle the wide range of challenges in these complex topic areas, we believe technology and data have a unique and important role to play. Connected Communities is founded on the belief that everybody should have access and be able to participate in these innovations to ensure energy security, increase affordability, and improve environmental and public health outcomes in communities across the Valley.

See the resources below for more reading on energy and environmental justice topics, as well as example Connected Communities solutions addressing these issues.

Reading resources:

  • Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool – An EPA-developed Environmental Justice data mapping tool based on nationally consistent data and an approach that combines environmental and demographic indicators in maps and reports.
  • Smart Sustainable Cities: Simple Way to be Smart – A publication developed by organizations participating in the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) initiative. Defines criteria for making interventions smart and simple and identifies smart interventions that do not require excessive material or capacity inputs and yet can help cities and communities become more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. In addition, provides smart city case studies.
  • Initiative for Energy Justice – A law and policy research organization focused on the transition to clean energy. Provides definitions, frameworks, and case studies for various energy justice topics.

Connected Communities example solutions:

How is TVA ensuring equity is a central component of Connected Communities?

Since the inception of this initiative, equity has been a priority for Connected Communities. The TVA team has worked to integrate equity principles into stakeholder engagement, visioning activities, and the overall pilot process.

Stakeholder Engagement: To ensure that community voices are at the decision-making table and are actively shaping the Connected Communities initiative, TVA engaged with multiple organizations who work directly with community members facing disparities related to technology access and connectivity, as well as other socioeconomic hardships. These organizations were brought on as members of the Connected Communities Steering Committee, which was formed to develop the Connected Communities mission and vision and identify focus areas for the Connected Communities initiative going forward. Similarly, Working Groups were convened to bring together organizations with expertise and experience addressing the issues associated with each of the three Connected Communities focus areas. The complete list of organizations making up the Steering Committee and Working Groups is included below.

Vision and Mission: As part of this visioning process, members of the Steering Committee explicitly called out equity as a priority for Connected Communities and cemented equity in the Connected Communities Definition, Mission, and Vision statements. The emphasis on equity is also reflected in the three initial focus areas determined by the Steering Committee:

  • Equitable Access to Services – Everyone in the Valley has access to services through broadband, modern technology, and the knowledge to use it.
  • Economic Empowerment – Everyone in the Valley is economically secure and can contribute to a modern, 21st century economy to the best of their ability.
  • Energy and Environmental Justice – Everyone in the Valley has access to a healthy environment (natural and built) and reliable, affordable, & clean energy.

These focus areas were selected largely because of the need the Steering Committee saw to address inequities related to the digital divide, access to workforce development programs, and energy and environmental issues in communities across the Valley. Data and technology solutions should be designed and deployed to eliminate these inequities and address community needs.

Pilot Process: The Connected Communities Pilot Process was also designed with equity at the forefront. By engaging with the Steering Committee and Working Groups, as well as by understanding lessons learned from similar grant processes, the following considerations have been incorporated into the Connected Communities Pilot Process:

Eligible Entities: The pilot opportunity is open to community-based organizations, non-profit entities, local government agencies, local power companies, and private businesses. Applicants are expected to have existing relationships within the Valley, preferably with local organizations representing community interests. While non-Valley-based organizations may apply, they will be required to partner with a local organization that has an established presence in the Valley.

Pilot Application: The pilot application was designed to minimize the burden an applying organization may face when submitting a project concept and associated project details. Application questions were designed to be clear and concise and encourage flexibility and brevity in responses (maximum word counts are assigned to each response). Additionally, a frequently asked questions (FAQs) was developed to answer key questions applicants may have about the process. The FAQs will be continuously updated as applicants submit questions.

Technical Assistance: To assist organizations with their applications, the TVA team is available to answer any questions that may come up regarding the pilot process. TVA is available to provide technical assistance as it relates to project concepts and design.

Funding and Cost-Share: While there is a cost-share requirement for the Connected Communities Pilot Grants, the TVA team has built in flexibility in terms of how applying organizations can fulfill their cost-share requirements (e.g., in-kind contributions) and how funding can be spent (e.g., operating costs). TVA will work with organizations facing unique financial constraints to identify ways to fulfill the cost-share requirement in a way that accommodates both the applying organization and the funding entity (TVA).

Evaluation: Pilot ideas will be assessed on the basis of three main criteria – (1) Strategic Alignment, (2) Feasibility, and (3) Impact. For each of these categories, the TVA team has worked with the Steering Committee and Working Groups to ensure concerns around equity are incorporated into pilot evaluation. For example, under (1) Strategic Alignment, applicants will be expected to explain how their project idea will address disparities or inequities related to the focus area. Under (2) Feasibility, applicants are expected to explain their community engagement and oversight plans to ensure project ideas are aligned with community priorities and project teams are accountable to the intended beneficiaries of the project. Under (3) Impact, applicants are expected to describe the potential impacts of the project (either quantitatively or qualitatively) on groups facing disparities or inequities related to the focus area. The evaluation rubric can be accessed here.

Which organizations are participating in the Steering Committee and Work Groups?

Our current Steering Committee and Work Groups are comprised of individuals from the following organizations:

  • AgLaunch
  • Appalachian Voices
  • CDE Lightband
  • The City of Chattanooga, TN
  • The City of Cookeville, TN
  • The City of Florence, AL
  • The City of Knoxville, TN
  • The City of Memphis, TN
  • Duck River Electric
  • The Enterprise Center
  • EPB
  • Electric Power Research Institute
  • Green|spaces Chattanooga
  • Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet
  • Knox County
  • Knoxville Chamber
  • KUB
  • Lawrenceburg Utilities System
  • Nashville / Middle Tennessee Central Labor Council
  • Nashville State Community College
  • NTCA The Rural Broadband Association
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Sierra Club
  • Southeast Sustainability Directors Network
  • Southern Connected Communities Project
  • Southwestern Kentucky Economic Development Council
  • Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association
  • ThreeCubed
  • Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
  • Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation
  • Urban Green Lab
  • Urban League of Middle Tennessee