New USDA Grant Program to Help Boost E15 Sales Nationwide

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When it comes to keeping customers happy and profits steady, a growing number of convenience retailers are turning to E15 as a solution. Growing from 100 sites selling E15 in 2014 to nearly 2,200 sites offering the fuel today, the trajectory for E15 sales volume remains on the up and up. And now, with a new federal grant program in the works, even more convenience store retailers can unlock all that E15 has to offer.

A solid starting point

From feedback on vehicle performance to sales data, E15 boasts an impressive track record. Any car manufactured in 2001 or later can use the fuel, which accounts for about 93% of registered vehicles in the United States according to the USDA—a percentage that increases every time an older car is taken off the road. So far, consumers have driven more than 15 billion miles on E15 and many first-time buyers become repeat customers.

What’s more, adding E15 to fuel offerings is easy for retailers—existing equipment is often compatible, and installations are generally simple. Additionally, the requirements to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards are straightforward, calling for retailers to meet one of two criteria: to ensure all equipment that stores and dispenses the fuel carries an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification for E15 or to carry a manufacturer’s warranty.

Once the EPA requirements are met, the final step to selling E15 is for retailers to assess their on-site compatibility. Despite any misconceptions, first-time E15 sellers very rarely need to make dramatic infrastructural changes to their site in order to sell the fuel; all tanks installed since 1990 (and many installed prior) are compatible, and any site that does require an upgrade is unlikely to need anything beyond a minor change.

USDA grant spells opportunity for retailers

To make selling E15 even more accessible, the USDA launched its Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program (HBIIP) in mid-May, an $86 million grant program offering a 50/50 cost share for retailers looking to upgrade their equipment. The program’s purpose, according to the USDA, is to increase sales and usage of higher-ethanol blends and biodiesel by expanding the infrastructure for renewable fuels and to encourage a more comprehensive approach to marketing them.

With Aug. 13 set as the filing deadline, Growth Energy’s Vice President of Market Development Mike O’Brien recommends that a prospective applicant begin the work of filing as soon as possible, approximating that it will require 78 hours of work to complete. Fortunately, retailers can turn to the experts for help.

“Growth Energy can assist with the application process,” says O’Brien. “This one is more competitive than past programs.”

Higher-rate sellers for ethanol will likely have a higher chance of acceptance, he adds, and knowing how to effectively advertise the fuel also provides an advantage. Growth Energy can contribute expertise in these regards as well.

“Best marketing practices for E15 will provide an advantage in getting into the grant program,” he says. “Growth Energy helps from A to Z—from technical aspects to customer-facing.”

To learn more about how Growth Energy can assist in applying for the HBIIP—and in increasing E15 sales overall—visit growthenergy.org.

This post is sponsored by Growth Energy

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