Energy, Federal Government, Government, United States, North America, Sustainability
Funding Energy Efficiency
U.S. Grant Program Aims to Protect Environment, Create Jobs
Is $2.7 billion enough to jump-start energy-efficiency projects across the United States?
“Recognizing the linkage of transportation, energy use, and air quality will help meet important air quality goals while improving overall efficiency…”
-Rob Phocas, project director for the city of Charlotte
Based on the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program, the U.S. Department of Energy hopes so. Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the program allocates nearly $3 billion in non-competitive entitlement grants intended to help cities, counties and local governments increase energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and create jobs.
CDM Smith has assisted more than 20 clients with the EECBG application process—from completing extensive application forms to developing energy master plans (EMPs) that detail funding use. The firm is also collaborating on the required energy efficiency and conservation strategies (EECS), which must be submitted with the grant applications or within 120 days of the first monies received.
Exploring Energy Options
Since these grants support a wide range of projects and communities—from small towns to the largest cities—CDM Smith is working with public officials at all levels. For municipalities, the firm is developing customized plans and processes based on specific needs, including hosting public meetings, promoting outreach and engaging private utilities and local businesses. In addition, EMPs often include project designs for solar electric and thermal systems; street lighting retrofits with efficient technologies; and heating, ventilating and air conditioning system upgrades.
Assistance in Action
Based on a successful partnership on water treatment projects, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, selected CDM Smith to assist with the planning and management of $6.7 million in energy grant money over the next 3 years.
In a unique move, the city is combining the EECS with a community-wide GHG emissions inventory and long-term energy-use reduction strategy. CDM Smith is helping to complete the GHG inventory, develop an action plan, and prioritize projects based on criteria developed through a public participation process. This allows the city to evaluate options on a neighborhood-planning level and engage community stakeholders in an unprecedented way.
“Community involvement and outreach are critical to executing this grant money in a successful manner. CDM Smith is helping facilitate public involvement through the formation of Energy Efficiency Partners and Energy Efficiency Contributors— two community stakeholder groups with energy interests,” says Rob Phocas, project director for the city of Charlotte.
Strong support from local environmental groups and collaboration with key city departments—utilities, airport, solid waste, and transportation—aid an integrated approach. Some of the nearly 200 project ideas submitted include implementing a cogeneration system at the wastewater treatment plant, adding solar panels on city-owned buildings, and incorporating community-wide energy-use reduction measures.
According to Phocas, “Recognizing the linkage of transportation, energy use and air quality will help meet important air quality goals while improving overall energy efficiency. Also, using a public process to determine project criteria will help us better prioritize projects based on community need.”
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
Will County, Illinois, has a rapidly growing population spread throughout 24 townships. CDM Smith is helping the robust county produce an EECS for $3 million in grant money and create a long-term government and community-wide energy plan. Similar to the approach used in Charlotte, stakeholder outreach is essential to this project.
The county has identified areas to evaluate based on energy savings, emission reduction, job creation and overall community benefits. Viable options being examined include assessing the energy efficiency of county government buildings, developing a waste-to-energy facility at the county landfill, creating a revolving loan fund for energy-efficient improvement projects, forming a household hazardous waste program, and developing recycling and energy education programs. Once these are vetted, CDM Smith will create a short list and draft energy strategy.
In addition to developing a screening and prioritization process for the county, CDM Smith held stakeholder meetings with government department heads and the community development advisory board, and administered a survey to gather information from members of the county’s executive committee board, townships and municipalities.
Across the United States, cities and counties are benefitting from an unprecedented amount of federal funds, and CDM Smith is committed to helping them maximize grant money for long-term energy-efficiency improvements.
To date, CDM Smith clients have benefitted greatly from the millions of dollars awarded through this grant program. From supporting Charlotte and Will County, to helping a Texas county through the application process for an energy-reducing transportation study, to conducting energy audits for a major Florida city—CDM Smith’s application assistance is extensive. It also includes helping clients stay aware of critical deadlines and tracking related government legislature.
Although the deadline for the initial round of 2009 funding has passed, CDM Smith continues to monitor additional energy-related funding and grant opportunities.