, March 26, 2009 (ENS) - At the White House today, Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced plans to invest $3.2 billion in energy efficiency and conservation projects in U.S. cities, counties, states, territories, and Native American tribes.
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will provide formula grants for projects that reduce total energy use and fossil fuel emissions, and improve energy efficiency nationwide.
Vice President Joe Biden announces the Block Grant funding at the White House. (Photo courtesy DOE)
"These investments will save taxpayer dollars and create jobs in communities around the country," said Vice President Biden. "Local leaders will have the flexibility in how they put these resources to work – but we will hold them accountable for making the investments quickly and wisely to spur the local economy and cut energy use."
The grants "empower local communities to make strategic investments to meet the nation's long term clean energy and climate goals," said Secretary Chu.
U.S. Conference of Mayors President Miami Mayor Manny Diaz said the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants will benefit hundreds of cities throughout the country.
"The nation's mayors thank President Obama and Congressional leaders for their commitment to making this investment in energy efficiency and conservation at the community level. These new resources will allow cities, counties and smaller communities to accelerate initiatives that reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable communities," said Mayor Diaz.
The EECBG program was "conceived" by The U.S. Conference of Mayors and was a top priority of the Mayors' 10-Point Plan and the Mayors' MainStreet Recovery Program, Diaz said.
The Block Grant funding will support energy audits and energy efficiency retrofits in residential and commercial buildings, the development and implementation of advanced building codes and inspections, and the creation of financial incentive programs for energy efficiency improvements.
Other activities eligible for use of the grant funds include transportation programs that conserve energy, projects to reduce and capture methane and other greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, renewable energy installations on government buildings, energy efficient traffic signals and street lights, as well as deployment of Combined Heat and Power and district heating and cooling systems.
To ensure accountability, the Department of Energy will provide guidance to and require grant recipients to report on the number of jobs created or retained, energy saved, renewable energy capacity installed, greenhouse gas emissions reduced, and funds leveraged.
Funding is based on a formula that accounts for population and energy use.
"The Block Grants are a major investment in energy solutions that will strengthen America's economy and create jobs at the local level," said Secretary Chu. "The funding will be used for the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable energy technologies we have – energy efficiency and conservation – which can be deployed immediately."
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Cities and counties will receive nearly $1.9 billion under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, and states and territories will receive nearly $770 million. More than $54 million will flow directly to tribal governments. States will receive and administer funds for those counties and cities that are not large enough to qualify for direct DOE funding.
Mayor Diaz called the funding guidelines for this program "a milestone in the nation's effort to achieve greater energy independence, climate protection, and sustainability."
"We thank Energy Secretary Chu and his team at the Department of Energy for devising a formula that reflects the goals of the Mayors Climate Protection Center, and look forward to working with them. This program will allow flexibility for cities to utilize their block grants in creative ways to meet their energy efficiency and conservation goals, and will aid in creating much-needed green jobs."
So far, more than 935 U.S. mayors have pledged support for The U.S. Conference of Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement.
Up to $456 million of the newly announced funding will be made available under a separate competitive solicitation for local energy efficiency projects to be released at a later date.
Today's annoucement of $3.2 billion is in addition to the Energy Department's recent release of nearly $8 billion to support weatherization and state energy projects.
A detailed breakdown of the funding by state, county, city and tribal government is available on Energy.gov/recovery. More information on the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program is available on http://www.eecbg.energy.gov/.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.
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