Federal energy stimulus: The check is in the mail

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By Elisa Wood

March 26, 2009

Energy efficiency companies waiting for federal stimulus money probably feel like they are being told, “The check is in the mail.” It is supposed to arrive, but when?

The federal government will channel a large pot of the money through state agencies, so it is wise to keep an eye on announcements by governors and state energy offices. States must apply by May 12 for $3.1 billion in what is known as the State Energy Plan funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The money will go toward rebates to consumers for home energy audits or other energy saving improvements; development of renewable energy projects; promotion of Energy Star products; efficiency upgrades for state and local government buildings; and other efforts initiated by the states.

To secure this money, state governors must write letters to the US Department of Energy explaining spending plans and providing assurance that they will meet federal stipulations. In many cases, the states will pass along money to utilities, which will then hire energy efficiency installers, auditors and others to do the actual work. To see how much money your state will receive and your governor’s letter when it is sent, go to http://www.energy.gov/recovery. Scroll down and click on the map at the bottom of the page.

The DOE recovery site also links to information on funds for weatherization, advanced battery manufacturing, environmental management, research and development, smart grid and other energy programs.

Some states are moving ahead more quickly than others in making public their plans for use of federal money.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Edward Rendell announced this week the names of five companies that will receive $3.8 million for energy conservation improvements. In all, the state expects to receive $366 million through the State Energy Plan program.

The Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources let businesses and public agencies know that funds may be available soon to help them purchase green vehicles. The state expects to receive $5 to $15 million of a $300 million pot for alternative vehicles. To qualify, businesses and public agencies must submit letters of commitment to the state by May 18. The state will apply for the federal money by May 29.

In Connecticut, Governor Jodi Rell sent a letter to DOE explaining the state’s plans to focus on growing its existing fuel cell industry and responding to consumer demand for solar thermal and geothermal products with part of the $38.5 million Connecticut expects through the State Energy Plan program.

Two national efficiency organizations also are working to smooth the flow of stimulus money into the industry. The Alliance to Save Energy has launched an initiative to help publicly-owned utilities expand conservation programs. ASE is undertaking the effort with the American Public Power Association and the Large Public Power Council. Meanwhile, The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy continues to frequently update www.energytaxincentives.org, which has details on recovery act and other incentives available for consumers and businesses.

In addition, K&L Gates is tracking energy stimulus funding and recently reported several grant solicitations, including one to accelerate the market introduction and penetration of advanced electric drive vehicles. Details are available through the DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Program.

So, while the stimulus check for energy efficiency may still be “in the mail,” many hands appear to be ferrying it toward delivery.

Visit Elisa Wood at www.realenergywriters.com and pick up her free Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


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