On April 4, 2019, Representatives Greg Stanton (D Arizona) and Marc Veasey (D Texas) introduced a bill to reauthorize funding for the federal Energy Efficiency Block Grant Program (EEBGP). The EEBGP, which was originally included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA),and funded as part of the 2009 stimulus package, authorized funding to promote local renewable energy development and energy efficiency projects. From 2009 to 2014 the Department of Energy (DOE) distributed $3.2 billion to state and local governments, communities and tribes for a variety of energy efficiency and fossil fuel reducing measures under the program. Funding expired in 2014.
An evaluation of the original block grant program by the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory showed that it funded a wide range of projects including building retrofits, provision of financial incentives for energy efficiency measures, technical consulting on local efficiency and conservation strategy, on-site renewables, and lighting. EEBGP grants funded over 7,400 projects and initiatives, with 87% of the funding going directly or indirectly to local governments, and the remainder to state governments.
The sum of the funded activities reduced lifetime emissions by the equivalent of 25.7 million metric tons of carbon, which is equal to taking 5.56 million cars off the road for one year. In addition, the programs are projected to save $5.2 billion from 2009-2050, a cost-benefit positive $1.76 for every dollar spent.
The proposed reauthorization bill would amend the EISA to authorize DOE to provide $3.5 billion each year from 2020 to 2025 in block grants to states, local governments, Indian reservations, and communities for projects that would:
- reduce fossil fuel emissions in a manner that would maximize benefits for local communities;
- reduce overall energy use; and
- improve energy efficiency in the building, transport, and other sectors.
The bill would further authorize $35 million in funding a year for the DOE to administer the program.
The bill also reauthorizes eligible activities established in the original block grant program, including projects to:
- Develop onsite renewable energy in government buildings
- Provide funding or loans for energy efficiency retrofits
- Provide direct grants for conservation and efficiency strategies for local governments to design, monitor, and report progress which includes activities that:
- Conduct residential and commercial building audits
- Implement carbon and methane capture from landfills
- Develop local energy efficient building codes
- Increase energy conservation in the transportation sector by implementing measures such as improved zoning guidelines, updated traffic signaling, and development of non-vehicle infrastructure
Whereas the 2007 bill prioritized fossil fuel conservation measures, the new legislation would also authorize local and state recipients to use funds to expand access to alternative fuels and develop alternative fuel infrastructure. This could include funding for local and state governments to build electric vehicle charging stations and other next-generation fueling technologies. Energy efficiency measures, however, remain a priority.
In a press release accompanying their bill, Representatives Veasey and Stanton expressed hopes that the new legislation would be a job creator and an efficient way to reduce emissions at the local level. “To better position ourselves for the 21st century economy, we need to invest in energy efficient infrastructure that is both sustainable and makes good business sense,” said Rep. Stanton. “This bill does just that. Through a proven block grant program, we can open up new opportunities for local governments to take action and invest in energy conservation and create new jobs.”
Representative Veasey emphasized the bipartisan appeal of the grant program, given that it was “first authorized in 2007 under the Bush Administration and later funded in 2009 under the Obama Administration”. While 43 Democrat and 20 Republican Senators voted for the EISA in 2007, this proposed reauthorization has 24 Democratic co-sponsors but, as of yet, no Republican support.