OPINION: HBIIP: Past the halfway point, what have we’ve learned?

By Cassie Mullen, director of market development at the Renewable Fuels Association | July 01, 2020

Believe it or not, we’re already at the halfway point in the 90-day application window for the USDA Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program, or “HBIIP.” Fittingly, this seemed like a good time to catch our breath and take stock of what we’ve learned so far.  Here are some lessons learned and things to consider as we enter the final stages of the application window.

For those not familiar with the particulars of HBIIP, the program offers up to $100 million in funding for competitive grants to eligible entities for activities designed to expand the sales and use of ethanol and biodiesel fuels.

Applicants are eligible for up to 50 percent of total eligible project costs, but not more than $5 million, for the installation of fuel pumps, related equipment, and infrastructure at vehicle fueling facilities. This includes local fueling stations/locations, convenience stores, hypermarket fueling stations, fleet facilities, fuel terminal operations, midstream partners and/or distribution facilities, among others.

This is a limited-time program with an application window that slams shut at 11:59 p.m. EDT August 13, and retailers need to be aware that the natural course of the application process carries certain prerequisites that demand both perseverance and time. Successful applicants need commitment, organization and patience. The Renewable Fuels Association is committed to helping retailers through the process; our web page at www.ethanol.rfa/hbiip offers a lot of information to help and our staff is available to help you through the process and ensure your complete application gets to USDA on time.

Not unlike similar programs that have come before this, the learning curve with HBIIP has definitely had its fair share of challenges; however, none of them are insurmountable and every day we find ourselves learning the nuances of this system as well as tricks and tips on how to overcome them. As retailers approach the final laps in this race, it’s now more important than ever before to have every tool available at your disposal to secure a successful award.

Here’s a list of what can make for a successful application process.

•Get it in on time! This may seem obvious, but the application window closes 11:59 p.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 13, and USDA has been clear that the deadline is not flexible.

•Get the right information! The official HBIIP website has all of the relevant information needed to understand the application process.  

•Be prepared! Certain steps need to be taken just to prepare for an application for this program. It is important to move quickly, as there can be a delay in the process, especially when it comes to receiving the needed “DUNS” number and setting up the account so you can then apply for the HBIIP program. Being prepared means:

•Obtaining equipment and installation bid(s) to identify what is needed at your location or locations to offer E15 and/or E85;

•Obtaining or verifying your “DUNS” number. If you do not already have one, DUNS numbers are free to obtain and required to receive a grant from the federal government. Here’s the link: https://fedgov.dnb.com/webform/;

•Registering  your DUNS number at SAM.gov; and

•Creating a USDA E-Authentication Customer Account.

The Renewable Fuels Association stands ready to help you in any way needed, and retailers are invited to take advantage of our resources and reach out to us today. Contact Cassie Mullen at cmullen@ethanolrfa.org, or visit us at www.ethanolrfa.org/hbiip/. Our HBIIP page includes links to information from previous webinars on this subject.