With Deadline Looming, White House to Issue Report on Energy & Stimulus


Wondering how much good those tens of billions of dollars in stimulus package funding have done for clean power innovation, the smart grid, advanced green vehicles and energy efficiency? Yep, us too, given the date to allocate all this money is looming on Sept. 30, 2010. Well, tomorrow morning, Vice President Joe Biden will unveil a report that the White House says analyzes the impact that the stimulus package has had on innovation for science and technology, including energy technologies via the Department of Energy. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu will be at the event as well.

The Department of Energy was given the responsibility to allocate $36 billion from the stimulus package for energy innovation, much in the form of grants, according to Inspector General Gregory Friedman in a report on Aug. 4. Other estimates put the greentech-related stimulus funding, including loans, loan guarantees and green car grants, as high as $50 billion to $80 billion.

The issue now is that if this $36 billion in funding isn’t handed out by Sept. 30, 2010, it will be lost (use it or lose it). A couple of weeks ago, Inspector General Gregory Friedman said that even though the DOE had increased its staff to try to get all of the funds out of the door, “two of the Department’s major projects have less than 50 percent of their Recovery Act funds obligated. And, as of the date of this review [Aug. 4], none of the programs has obligated 100 percent of their respective funding.”

In particular, Inspector General Friedman’s report expressed concerns about delays in the award process for the carbon capture and sequestration project FutureGen (which will get $1 billion) and an industrial carbon storage project that is supposed to get $1.5 billion. As of Aug. 4, the funds for FutureGen hadn’t been awarded, though the day after the Inspector General’s report came out (Aug. 5), the DOE said that the much-delayed project FutureGen was back on, and that it would still be awarded $1 billion out of the stimulus package.

Other projects that had low allocation rates as of July 9 were the Advanced Building System’s fund of $80 million (just 16 percent), and the ARPA-E grants. While all three rounds of ARPA-E awards have been finalized for the early stage, high-risk energy projects, as of July 9, 2010, 59 percent of the programs hadn’t yet received the assigned funds.

One of the problems that the allocation of the smart grid grants has faced has been state regulators denying approval. Utility Baltimore Gas & Electric’s smart grid project — which won a $200 million grant from the DOE — was rejected by state regulators earlier this year. The Inspector General’s report cites the rejection of the Baltimore project as a significant hurdle for how state regulators could curb allocation of the funds. But just last week, the Maryland PUC approved the Baltimore project and it’s seemingly back on track.

We’ll see what kind of optimistic speech Biden can give to encourage the DOE to keep on truckin’ and make sure the rest of the funds get handed out before the Sept. 30 deadline. We’re guessing touting some programs’ job creation abilities will be at the heart of it. Tune in tomorrow for the update.

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Mike Nemeth

This will be interesting. I doubt any funds will be pulled right before the election. DOE earlier this year made larger cities getting direct allocations of EECBG (energy efficiency and conservation block grant) funds to spell out exactly what plans they had for unspent portions of their grants. The more interesting situation is that faced in California by smaller cities and counties getting their direct EECBG money through the California Energy Commission. None of that money will be allocated until all the work is complete. And for many of the cities, work has not begun and won’t until later in the year. The reason can be traced to mounds of paperwork generated by mind-numbing bureaucratic requirements.

Sarah Cadigan

DOE may say the FutureGen project has been funded but the city that was supposed to house the carbon storage facility backed out last week after DOE abruptly changed the project. (Google Mattoon backs out of FutureGen). So, there is no host site and thus no project.

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