Saturday, March 27, 2010

Think globally, grant locally - Intergovernmental Grants for Environmental Projects in Minnesota

Changing energy usage landscape in United States as an energy consumer is like plant a thousand seeds in the hope of growing a forest. The strategy of reducing America's fossil fuel emissions, improving energy efficiency, and reduction of total energy use depend on a multitude of grants known as the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG) distributed to State and Local governments. This Program, authorized in Title V, Subtitle E of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) and signed into Public Law (PL 110-140) on December 19, 2007, provides funds to units of local and state government, Indian tribes, and territories to develop and implement projects to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions in their communities. This Federal program's purpose is the disperse funding across the nation for incremental improvements that ultimately have a large impact on the nation as a whole. Changes to energy use vary depending on the state and the resources available.

According to the State Energy Program, investments made by the federal government can have a multiplier affect for state and local governments by reducing energy costs for states and federal governments as well as increases the amount of addition investment in state and local private sector investments.

The intergovernmental block grant program also provides funding for weatherization installation, tribal assistance, and renewable energy production. These approaches attempt to spread the grant assistance to various techniques to reduce energy use. As a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the stimulus appropriated $3.2 billion for the EECBG Program for fiscal year 2009. The metrics used to identify how well the grants are spent in the regions are the amount of jobs created, energy saved, renewable energy capacity installed and generated, greenhouse gas emission reduced, energy cost savings, and funds leveraged. Communities can compete for the funding according to how well they score on the metrics. The projects identified that are likely to be funded through the intergovernmental grant are energy efficiency and conservation strategies, efficiency building retrofits, small-scale renewable energy systems on local government buildings, and LED (Light Emitting Diode) are more likely to score higher.

The debated component of the EECBG is the "Buy American Provision" as a part of the stimulus. A part of changing the energy efficiency in the United States is to also support the growth of American jobs in the field. Advocates believe that the provision is important for creating American jobs while opponents believe that the provision is a protectionist tariff.

Regardless of the decision to use the buy American provision, the grant program ultimately does provide a policy stance and intergovernmental grant funding for state and local governments with regard to energy use. This funding provides the ability to make small changes across the nation that ultimately will add up to greater efficiencies for the nation. Providing the funding, for example, to change thousands of LED stoplights is one step in using intergovernmental funding incentives from the Feds to create changes for communities across the nation.

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