Struggling to find a way to apply for government grant money to underwrite your sustainability project?  The California Air Resources Board has a great tool to do an efficient search—the Funding Wizard.  Neil Matouka, Local Government Planning Liaison at CARB, gave a good explanation of what it is and how to use it.

Air quality agencies have become an important source for grants to underwrite projects that can help meet climate goals, especially due to access to the money from the sale of cap-and-trade offsets.
But the programs with the money have proliferated to the point where it is hard to know of all the opportunities. 

More than a decade ago, CARB had the idea of simplifying the process of applying for this money to get more people to apply and thereby increase the effectiveness of the money spent.  That turned out to be such a popular idea that CARB expanded the original scope and now has a database of all similar funding opportunities at the local as well as state level, and with agencies beyond just air quality ones, including the power utilities.  In addition, modules have been added to help people make calculations of the reductions in carbon footprint from a proposed project and to put together a solid project plan.  This tool is being continuously updated and improved.  It offers a quick way for anyone to identify and target opportunities with a good screening tool.

By design, the Wizard searches only for opportunities based in California, but so long as one can make that connection, it opens a lot of doors.  

In the discussion, Matouka responded positively to the suggestion that energy storage incentives be added to the types of assistance covered by the Wizard since storage is enabling more use of carbon free sources of energy.  Judy Nottoli also of the ARB noted that the new three-year plan for the use of the cap and trade money will be published soon, and the cleantech community should be looking for new options for funding there.  In the public discussion of the draft of this document, the case was made that money should be included to support prototype development and pilot testing of promising new technologies.  If money is included for such purposes, that would be an important addition to the spectrum of grant money available.  So be sure to check the new plan when it is released.

The discussion also highlighted the Fund-It-Fast chats of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization (, the CalSEED program funded by the CEC, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants of the DOE, and the search tools of OpenGrants ( as other good time-saving tools to connect with possible non-dilutive early-stage funding.

While innovators may be eager to look for angel investors or VCs right from the start, finding ways to use grant funds may be more appropriate at early stages.  Thankfully, there are tools like the Funding Wizard that make that search much easier and faster.

Thomas Hall


Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

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