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Green Building News

Get a Green Grip on Stimulus Cash

Image Credit: U.S. Department of Energy

What online resources are available to remodelers and builders who want to participate in energy efficiency programs funded by the stimulus package?

We identify a few sites that offer program details and contacts. We also highlight some of the challenges facing agencies charged with managing newly expanded budgets.

Last week we mentioned that the folks who manage weatherization and other energy conservation programs in Georgia have their hands full thanks to a huge boost in funding from the federal stimulus package.

But the administrators in Georgia are certainly not alone in their quest to handle a ballooning budget. Every state accepting allocations through the stimulus program, known officially as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, faces similar money-management challenges.

Not surprisingly, this embarrassment of riches has prompted warnings from critics of the stimulus program that the door is now open for scammers to scam and bureaucrats to sell favors.

If past is prologue, there may be a scandal or two. The overriding positive, though, is that expanded energy conservation programs mean expanded training and job opportunities for remodelers and other building specialists.

The Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy division, for example, has about $8 billion in ARRA funds to spend on state and local energy efficiency programs, with almost $5 billion going to the Weatherization Assistance Program – which the DOE launched in the early 1970s to increase the energy efficiency of dwellings owned or occupied by low-income people – and about $3 billion going to the State Energy Program, which, via rebates, will promote energy efficiency improvements for consumers, fund renewable energy and alternative-fuel projects, promote Energy Star products, and support other state energy efficiency programs.

Watching where the money goes

The stimulus-funding surge has in fact precipitated more than a few blogs and newspaper stories about the bureaucratic challenges at hand and the surge in interest by job seekers.

The weatherization program alone is expected to create 60,000 new jobs, 20,000 for those who do the weatherizing, 40,000 for those who supply equipment and materials, notes a recent blog posted on eGov Monitor, a U.K.-based online forum that covers U.S. public policy extensively. The DOE predicts that another 27,000 jobs will be created by State Energy Program initiatives.

Weatherization specialists parry concerns about the potential for fraud by pointing out that auditing and oversight safeguards have been part of WAP since its inception and are designed to accommodate rapid expansion.

“The level of scrutiny on this program is going to be extraordinary, as it should be,” Matt Rogers, the DOE’s senior advisor for stimulus fund implementation, told the Los Angeles Times. “If we are successful, people will understand we can create good jobs.”

(In what turns out to be timely fashion, the DOE is presenting its 2009 National Weatherization Training Conference, for WAP staff and trainers from July 20-23 in Indianapolis. Weatherization Training Conferences are held biennially.)

The LAT also notes that stimulus funding and tax breaks for efficiency and in both residential and commercial buildings already have prompted private-sector firms to double or triple their workforces.

California, for example, will receive $411 million in stimulus efficiency funds, Maryland is getting $113 million, and Illinois will see nearly $350 million. Much of the stimulus money, however, also comes with a requirement that states adopt ongoing efficiency initiatives and set ever-higher standards. And that is an added incentive for energy-efficiency companies to participate.

“It’s absolutely monstrous,” John Berger, chief executive of Standard Renewable Energy, a Houston-based efficiency company with offices in four states, told the paper, “both in terms of the opportunity for us and in terms of accomplishing what the objective was, which is use less energy.”

Online sources for background and contacts

Some of the websites identified below offer overviews of stimulus-funded programs. Some provide more-detailed information, including state and local contacts, about renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and incentives. Click on the bold highlighted text to get to the site. We’ll update the list as readers provide feedback.

Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s State Energy Program project summaries, which include SEP contacts and links to state energy office websites.

The EERE’s Weatherization and Intergovernmental Program site, which includes contact information for the EERE Information Center and background on the WAP, SEP, and on Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, a $3.2 billion program that provides funding to local governments, Indian tribes, states, and territories to reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions, and for improvements in energy efficiency.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, which provides extensive listings for state, local, utility, and federal incentives. The DSIRE includes directories for both renewable energy and energy efficiency.

An ARRA funding overview provided by the Alliance to Save Energy, a coalition of business, government, environmental, and consumer groups that promote energy efficiency.

The Alliance to Save Energy’s overview of the ARRA’s effects on the Weatherization Assistance Program.

For general information about EERE programs, check out the EERE main page and the index page of energy.gov/recovery, the online source for information about stimulus spending.

And for a review of the federal tax breaks available to consumers for upgrades in energy efficiency, check out the recent New York Times Q&A with Alliance to Save Energy’s president, Kateri Callahan.

2 Comments

  1. BOBBY "T" | | #1

    What programs can help me with developing all plastic house
    This is a request, not a comment. I know that there must be funding somewhere in atleast two or so
    funded programs that I have not found. That seek solutions to inexspencive and affordable residential housing. I have designed such a building. Can someone, anyone direct me in the right direction for
    research and development funding. The idea for affordable housing is way overdue and is within reach
    for developing areas. Any help or info would be appreciated.

  2. BOBBY "T" | | #2

    A percentage of available funding, earmarked for solution finder
    I have often wondered why a very small percentage of available funding for services and problem solving
    was all that our federal,state and local governments ever offer to the largest body of thinkers and inn-
    ovators. I am talking about WE THE PEOPLE. The problems that we all face are our problems. Our government tries to resolve them, but they don't do a very good job of it. Governments attitude is, let the state and/or local government handle it. Or my favorite one is, throw more money at the problem. Maybe it will go away. Hasen't worked in the past, not gonna work in our future. Give WE THE PEOPLE a chance to fix and correct OUR PROBLEMS. After all its important to us all, to correct these issues and we can draw solutions from the largest pool of brains and thinkers available (U.S. Citizens). So far no one in government has been interested enough to
    tapped this resource, and given the American people the chance to fix the problems and be heard.
    The largest amount of funding always gets earmarked for some univercity or think tank for future studies
    and reports on how we might resolve the problems facing our country. These solutions to our problems
    and the aftermath of handling local disasters should not be left in the hands of the thinkers, but better yet
    put into the hands of the doers. We The People are always there in the emergency. We see the problems first hand , and I believe we can and will respond to help our neighbors quicker than any think tank ever has. Well thanks for hearing me out. It's just something that I felt needed to be said.

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