Don't Leave Stimulus Money on the Table

Don't Leave Stimulus Money on the Table

I've been spending a good deal of time in the past couple of months educating local officials about funding available under the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, and helping to shape applications for program funds. In the process, I've learned two things:
• DOE has crafted a great program to introduce numerous state and local governments to sustainability.
• Some of the governmental units eligible for formula funding have not yet decided to apply.
With any luck, this column will acquaint more public officials with the program and encourage them to apply for EECBG support. The deadline (extended from late June) is August 10 at 8:00 pm Eastern Time. Communities eligible for formula funding are potentially leaving money on the table if they fail to file an application.

The EECGB program (http://www.eecbg.energy.gov/grantalloc.html) was created under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, but wasn't funded until February 2009 as part of the federal economic stimulus. The program provides up to $3.2 billion in grant monies for states, eligible local governments (typically those with populations over 35,000) and Indian tribes, of which over $2.7 billion will be disbursed according to a population-based formula. Sixty percent of funds made available to state governments are required to be distributed to communities that are not eligible for formula funding. The District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are also eligible for funds.

The intent of the EECGB program is to reduce fossil fuel emissions, reduce total energy use, and improve energy efficiency in the building, transportation and other appropriate sectors. Funds must also be deployed to stimulate economic growth and create or retain jobs under the federal stimulus initiative. To this end, DOE has authorized a broad and flexible list of permissible program activities:
• Development of an Energy Efficiency Conservation Strategy.
• Technical Consultant Services.
• Residential and Commercial Building Energy Audits.
• Financial Incentive Programs.
• Energy Efficiency Retrofits.
• Energy Efficiency and Conservation Programs for Buildings and Facilities.
• Development and Implementation of Transportation Programs.
• Energy Distribution Technologies.
• Building Codes and Inspections.
• Material Conservation Programs.
• Reduction and Capture of Methane and Greenhouse Gases.
• Traffic Signal and Street Lighting.
• Remedial Energy Technologies on Government Buildings.
I'm impressed with the breadth of permissible activities, because it gives grant recipients the chance to choose, plan for and implement tailored community strategies from among numerous program areas. Among them: energy retrofit programs for public buildings, private commercial properties, or housing; efficient lighting initiatives, including traffic signal and street lighting; introduction of renewable energy technologies; recycling programs; the development and enforcement of green building codes; and financial incentives for retrofit and other energy efficiency efforts. Formula applicants can focus their application on a single area or can target multiple opportunities.

Why I'm concerned: while numerous governments eligible for formula funds have already applied, many have not. That's tantamount to leaving money on the table. How much? You can find out at this link-- click on your state to find a list of state and local allocations: http://www.eecbg.energy.gov/grantalloc.html.

How difficult is it to apply for an EECBG formula grant? A diligent effort is required, yes, but the process is manageable for those with expertise in the subject area. And if your government unit is short-staffed, I'm confident that you can find outside support to help complete your application. My company, Malachite LLC, and others like it, offer expertise.

The money's there, and EECBG's a terrific way to make your community greener. I hope that every government eligible for formula funds files an application by August 10.

Leanne Tobias is founder and managing principal of Malachite LLC, an advisory firm that specializes in the development, leasing, management, financing and certification of sustainable or green real estate on a global basis.