Net Zero Energy Wastewater Treatment Plants

The Foundation’s Net Zero Energy Wastewater Treatment Program will award grants to wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) committed to achieving and maintaining site net zero energy (NZE) performance or better. Plants must maximize energy efficiency and offset all of their energy consumption with on-site generation from renewable resources. Grant payments will be tied to performance.

The goal of the program is to encourage WWTPs to take a holistic approach integrating energy efficiency, renewable self-generation and best practices. The Foundation aims to fund projects that demonstrate the energy potential of wastewater and feasibility of site NZE operation in the sector. These flagship facilities will educate the public and professionals and contribute to the knowledge of operating site NZE WWTPs.


  • Publicly owned and operated wastewater treatment facilities, either by local government or public agency established by legislative action
  • Facilities must be designed and scheduled to operate on a 24/7/365 basis

ALL applicants are required to provide a letter from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) confirming their Employer Identification Number (EIN).


  • Must track and make public their energy performance data
  • Must share information on the practices and technologies used; disseminate learnings at conferences and in trade publication
  • May use ESCOs/performance-based contracts


  • Facility-wide energy plan and long-term commitment to site net zero energy
  • Located in Illinois
  • Must not have started construction
  • Provide public access for educational purposes
  • Showcase net zero energy mission including through permanent displays and highly visible signage
  • Must retire any environmental attributes (i.e. renewable energy credits, emission offsets, etc.) associated with the project

Funding Guidelines

Facilities considered for funding must have an energy plan that includes a long-term commitment to site net zero energy.

Support is only available to projects selected to receive a grant and is determined on a case-by-case basis during the application review period. The Foundation will steer its support to those measures that maximize energy efficiency and self-generation. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Foundation prior to requesting funds, especially in the case of a major renovation or work planned through an ESCO energy performance contract.

Reaching the site net zero energy goal may depend on implementing a series of measures over several years. Eligible applicants may apply for support during successive grant cycles. Funding is available for up to 50% of the project cost or $500,000, whichever is less. Total grant support is limited to $2 million per plant. Each grant includes up to 2.5% (or $12,500, whichever is less) for permanent educational signage and displays.

Grants will be paid after successful implementation and performance:

  • Up to 60% upon project completion/start-up
  • Up to 40% after 12 consecutive months of net zero energy performance

The Foundation anticipates extensive interaction with applicants to determine the incentive profile and amounts of individual awards.

Applicants may be awarded a grant at a lower amount than requested.


  • Pre-Proposal: January 26, 2021 – CLOSED
  • Pre-Proposal: July 20, 2021 – CLOSED

Application Process

The application process consists of two stages: 1) Pre-Proposal and 2) Full Proposal

Stage 1: Pre-Proposal

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Foundation prior to requesting funds. The Foundation will suggest that promising ideas apply for funding based on alignment with program guidelines, criteria, and Foundation interests. Pre-Proposal applications will be accepted only if submitted by the eligible applicant.

Complete the Pre-Proposal online application, attach the required documents (see table) and submit

List of Pre-Proposal Attachments

  • Financial Statements for the most recent fiscal year including a Statement of Financial Position and Statement of
  • Activities. Include any notes to the financial statements.
  • Current Year Summary Budget
  • IDNR Eco Cat Information Request Form if installing Wind Turbines and/or Ground-Mounted Solar Systems
  • Internal Revenue Service Documentation Confirming your Employer Identification Number (EIN), usually a 147c letter
  • Facility-wide energy plan that includes road map to reach site net zero energy operation

A confirmation e-mail is sent after an application is received. The Foundation may follow up with additional questions for applicants.

Stage 2: Full Proposal

A link to the Full Proposal application and instructions is e-mailed with the invitation. Deadlines for Full Proposals vary and will be included in the invitation. Required attachments for the Full Proposal will include documents specific to project(s) being implemented as well as a:

  • Final education plan, including signage, displays, outreach, etc.
  • Final monitoring and performance verification plan

The Foundation may follow up with additional questions for applicants.

Award Process

The Foundation’s Net Zero Energy WWTP Program review process is estimated to take four months or longer. The grant award process is competitive. Some projects may be awarded at lower levels than requested; others may be declined altogether.

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Check out the March 2021 issue of the Central & Midwest CHP Region Newsletter for current news on combined heat and power industries and events in the Midwest.
  • Register here for webinars on Energy and Nutrient Optimization for Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants presented by EPA Region 4, NC DEQ, and the Waste Reduction Partners. Access to past presentations is also available.
  • The USDA is accepting applications for loans and grants to support water and wastewater treatment plant projects in rural areas. Click here for an application to learn more.
  • The Illinois EPA Office of Energy, in partnership with ISTC and SEDAC, are offering no-cost energy assessments to municipalities looking to reduce energy consumption at their wastewater treatment plants:
  • Water Environmental Research Foundation: and search for “energy neutral”
  • Energy from Wastewater
  • Executive Summary: Energy neutrality for the domestic wastewater industry is within reach
  • US DOE Sustainable Wastewater Infrastructure of the Future (SWIFT) Accelerator
  • The Illinois Finance Authority provides financing to units of local government in Illinois for water infrastructure (wastewater treatment plants and public water supplies)
  • IL EPA Wastewater/Stormwater and Drinking Water loan program, also called the Illinois Clean Water Initiative (CWI), provide low-interest loans through the State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF). The CWI includes the Water Pollution Control Loan Program (WPCLP) which funds both wastewater and stormwater projects.
  • Ameren Illinois offers standard and custom program incentives for energy efficiency improvements involving electricity and natural gas conservation. Also available to customers who purchase electricity or gas from third party suppliers but use Ameren’s distribution system.
  • Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiencies (DSIRE) provides a comprehensive source of information on incentives and polices that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States.
  • ComEd has incentives available for aeration, pumping, anaerobic digestion, and more. Or receive a free energy assessment of your water/wastewater treatment plant.
  • Funding for efficiency and renewable energy is available to members (and members’ retail customers) through the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency (IMEA) Electric Efficiency Program.
  • The US DOE Midwest CHP TAP provides no-cost technical assistance to help you determine if CHP is worth a closer look for your facility. Contact Graeme Miller at 312-996-3711 or to begin your qualification screening.