USDA to open 30-day application period for HBIIP on Dec. 21

By Erin Voegele | December 17, 2020

USDA Rural Development has announced it will open a new 30-day application period for the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive program on Dec. 21. The Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy and American Coalition for Ethanol say they are ready and willing to help retailers apply for the program.

The HBIIP aims to significantly increase the sales and use of higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel by expanding the infrastructure for renewable fuels derived from U.S. agricultural products. Investments made under HBIIP aim to help transportation fueling and biodiesel distribution facilities convert to higher ethanol and biodiesel blends by sharing the costs related to the installation of fuel pumps, related equipment and infrastructure. Under the program, higher blends include ethanol blends of greater than 10 percent and biodiesel blends of greater than 5 percent. 

Up to $100 million has been made available for the program. The USDA in October announced an initial round of awards under the program, awarding $22 million to 40 recipients in 14 states. The agency now plans to accept a new round of HBIIP applications.

The RFA noted the new application window for the program is short and is encouraging anyone interested in applying for this funding to act immediately, as the process will take the bulk of the application window for most applicants.

“We are very proud of our earlier work that helped fuel retailers across the country successfully apply for and receive funding under the HBIIP grant program, and the RFA staff is ready to roll up its sleeves again to help retailers tap into the remaining funds available,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “This effort by USDA will make a significant difference in the availability of higher blends of low-carbon ethanol, and our technical resources can continue to help ease the burden for dozens of retailers planning projects at hundreds of locations.”

ACE expressed hope that the upcoming HBIIP application period will provide a second chance for retailers who got started during the original 90-day application period but couldn’t complete their grant applications before that window closed.

“We got feedback on the application process from marketers we worked with saying it took too long to gather the information they needed and get the ‘registrations’ they had to complete before they could even apply,” said Ron Lamberty, senior vice president and market development director at ACE. “Those things are required to do business with the government, and most retailers weren’t expecting that.

“Although 30 days seems like an impossibly short window, it can be an opportunity for station owners who started the process this summer, to finish their applications,” Lamberty said, adding that “realistically, someone just jumping in right now is going to have a challenge rounding up the necessary permissions and information in that timeframe.”  

Growth Energy also expressed hope that the new application window will help increase the availability of higher ethanol blends. “We have heard countless success stories from our retail partners about how HBIIP grants have helped them grow their Unleaded 88 (E15) fuel offerings, strengthen their infrastructure, and increase store foot traffic and sales,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, these grants have been welcome relief for our industry and our hardworking men and women across the country, and we stand at the ready to assist retailers who hope to take full advantage of this growth opportunity.”




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