It is important to start an RFP by stating the primary goal and scope of the project. When developing an RFP, you should plan to provide a standard set of information and evaluation criteria to developers to encourage accurate, comparable bids. It is also important to understand legal constraints for the city’s procurement process, and the potential for more restrictive RFPs to result in higher-cost bids than those that allow more latitude for respondents to choose the means of achieving the project goals. It is typical to allow four to six weeks for installers or vendors to respond.
Specific RFP elements to include are listed below. For additional details on elements to include, see the DOE Better Buildings Institute’s customizable solar RFP guidance template, the City of San Jose’s draft RFP document, and a database of previous municipal solar RFPs.
Recommended RFP elements:
- An explanation of how the proposal process is to be administered, including a tentative timeline (e.g., prebid conference, facility site visits, proposal due, selection notification)
- An outline of the criteria and process to be used to evaluate proposals, including completeness, proper qualifications and experience, quality of technical proposal, cost-effectiveness, implementation plan and schedule, and contract terms and conditions
- (Optional) Requirements for local and/or minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged businesses (MWDBEs). You will need to establish enforcement policies with consequences for noncompliance.
- Project scope and background. This should include detailed project information such as:
- Contract length and post-contract renewal, system removal, or city ownership (e.g., a 20-year contract with the developer responsible for system removal costs upon the natural contract termination)
- Utility interconnection requirements, rate structure, and net-metering policies
- System ownership structure and REC ownership (e.g., the municipality secures REC ownership rights to legally claim environmental attributes and make progress toward the city’s renewable energy goals)
- Performance guarantees (e.g., guaranteed annual production in kWh with a maximum acceptable annual degradation (typically 0.75%)
- Design guidelines (e.g., 10-degree tilt for a flat roof with an orientation that maximizes annual energy production)
- Technical requirements and reference materials (e.g., code compliance)
- Roles and responsibilities (e.g., operations and maintenance)
- A post-construction commissioning plan
- Data monitoring and access (e.g., access to an online data monitoring system to identify system performance issues and to use for educational opportunities)
- Project and deliverable timeline
- A summary of submission documents and information that the bidder must include, such as:
- Equipment information (e.g., layout of installation and performance of equipment components)
- Installation interconnection information (e.g., array orientation, tilt, and total capacity)
- Performance characteristics (e.g., shading calculation documentation and total system output [kWh/yr])
- Applicable incentives
- Interconnection agreement
- Cost ($/W for direct ownership or $/kWh for a PPA)
An RFP can be either an open or closed solicitation. A closed solicitation means only select contractors can bid on the RFP; the selection will likely be determined by the RFQ. An open solicitation means anyone can respond to the RFP and it is often distributed on domains such as Bidnetdirect. If your city has a requirement in the RFP to support local and/or MWDBEs contractors, consider establishing MWDBEs regional ecosystems and engaging the community and business networks to assist contractors in reaching their MWDBE goals.
Finally, cities should use the evaluation matrix outlined in the RFP to select their contractor. This solar RFP proposal Evaluation Matrix provides example evaluation criteria to use when evaluating multiple proposals. It is typical to allow four weeks for contractors to respond to an RFP.