Solving DOE’s Energy Efficiency Puzzle a Piece at a Time
While additional weatherization proposals wait in the wings, the DOE cites measures it has taken to move existing programs along
One way to grease the path for the Obama administration’s Homestar home-retrofit legislative proposal will be to show that current stimulus programs are yielding their intended results, or are at least about to.
Last week, the head of the Department of Energy’s stimulus program, Matt Rogers, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the agency had developed a system for aggressively addressing the confusion and procedural issues that had been slowing disbursement of funds and implementation of the expanded Weatherization Assistance Program, the New York Times noted on Friday in a blog post headlined “DOE Says Stimulus Program Past Its Growing Pains.”
Coming on the heels of a report by the DOE Inspector General that expressed alarm over the unexpectedly slow rollout of the expanded, $5 billion program, Rogers’ comments to the Senate committee were met with a mix of acceptance and impatience.
Trying to convince the skeptics
When objections focused on labor-intensive DOE reporting requirements, for example, Rogers said the requirements were nonetheless important because they help the department quickly identify grant recipients in need of extra assistance, particularly recipients in the weatherization program, which, as the Times pointed out, has been identified as one of 12 "high risk" areas for poor management. "I guess we will have to feel our way along and see if the requirement can be managed by the states and get everything else done," said New Mexico Democrat Jeff Bingham, who is chairman of the committee.
When considering further stimulus programs, cautioned Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, “we need to be working in a far more coordinated manner.”
But the reality, too, is that most lawmakers and bureaucrats seem to have acclimated to a certain amount of improvisation. While no one who needs a job wants to wait for an ambitious WAP expansion to live up to its billing, the program is finally chugging ahead, according to Rogers, who noted that, by the end of March, the agency will be on pace to finish 30,000 efficiency upgrades per month and 250,000 this year.
For insight into how the WAP push has been playing out for some of the people who hope to be doing the work in the field, click here for a report, recently prepared by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, that focuses on worker training and energy efficiency auditing services as they prepare – and wait – for job assignments in the Chicago area.