January is when we simultaneously look back at the previous year and look ahead at what’s to come. Events that occurred in 2021 will shape what’s possible in 2022. One landmark event was congressional approval of a bi-partisan infrastructure bill that includes $65 billion for energy investments.
The Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA) provides an array of programs that states can leverage. Many of the bill’s provisions represent new infusions of federal money to efficiency and grid modernizations programs already in existence.
The challenge before us – the Department of Energy, state energy offices, the energy sector writ large – is to utilize these programs to benefit consumers through better, more economical energy end uses such as space and water heating and improving the efficiency of the electric grid. Fortunately, meeting this challenge also offers significant economic benefits including:
- electric utilities improving their load profiles and economics
- additional work (and jobs) in the HVAC and other industries being created as homes and other buildings are upgraded
- consumers saving money on their overall energy bills, with these savings being spent on other services and goods, leading to positive multipliers and additional job creation
At the same time, we should commit to finding more effective ways to promote efficiency, grid modernization and the public interest.
Here are some of the new, exciting funding opportunities now available to help us meet this challenge and generate economic benefits for all Coloradoans:
- $550 million in the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG)
- $500 million in the State Energy Program for grants to communities, cities, states, U.S. territories and Indian tribes to develop and implement clean energy programs and projects that will create jobs
- $500 million targeted to schools for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements at facilities, along with a $5 billion EPA effort to replace thousands of polluting diesel school buses with electric buses
- $3.5 billion in the Weatherization Assistance Program to increase energy efficiency, increase health and safety, and reduce energy costs for low-income households by hundreds of dollars every year
Taken together these programs spell an enormous opportunity for Colorado to improve both our state’s economy and environment.
The Beneficial Electrification League is already in conversations with DOE officials heading up these programs. The League’s message is simple: where beneficial electrification programs and technologies meet the over-arching goals of these programs, they should be eligible for IJJA funds.
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program offers a case in point. The EECBG was created in 2007 under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) and was intended to enable states, local governments and tribes to 1) reduce their consumption of fossil fuels, 2) reduce their energy use overall and 3) improve efficiency.
Keith Dennis, recently appointed president of the Beneficial Electrification League, led this program during his tenure at DOE.
“When state and local governments are evaluating efficiency options, we want them to understand the efficiency benefits of electrification,” said BEL president Keith Dennis. “The Beneficial Electrification League will advocate for this perspective with DOE staff overseeing this and other programs.”
Fifteen years later, the electric sector has made significant strides in reducing the use of fossil fuels in power generation and driving down the carbon emissions associated with electric power generation. It is consistent with the aims of the program, therefore, for grantees to use EECBG funds for electrification programs—programs enabling the energy efficient switch to electricity from fossil fuel combustion for certain end-uses—and policies that can improve energy efficiency.
The Colorado Beneficial Electrification League is well-positioned to educate stakeholders on how these programs can bring multiple benefits, some of which were not envisioned or possible when the program was first crafted (before the concept of beneficial electrification did not exist).
Below are a few notable examples:
- EECBG requires an energy efficiency and conservation strategy. BEL argues that these strategies should include analysis of energy intensity of fuel choice technology (electric options versus fossil fuel alternatives), and details on determining cost-effectiveness and screening to ensure the programs will meet energy efficiency and conservation goals.
- Electric equipment – electric forklifts, lawnmowers, leaf-blowers, among others – should be eligible for incentive programs, including rebate programs.
The money is an opportunity, but let’s be honest, it’s also daunting. Fortunately, the League model promotes the collaboration necessary for progress. Both the national League and the Colorado BEL will be sharing information, application templates and program ideas.
As we all know, the world and paradigms changed a great deal last year. By resolving to work more closely together in 2022 to meet daunting challenges and seize new opportunities we will make a powerful contribution to a better and brighter year for Colorado, the nation, and world.