Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Funding Energy Sustainability And Efficiency for Institutions

In 2007, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), which was then signed by the President. Among many other initiatives and programs, the act authorized a program for Energy Sustainability and Efficiency Grants and Loans for Institutions [Section 471 of Public Law 110-140, incorporated as Section 399a in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6371h-1)]. Funded, these projects could:

• Provide near-term economic stimulus by designing and building new clean energy infrastructure that will stimulate high quality construction and green collar jobs.
• Stimulate local economies in the long term by investing in local energy supplies and sources that keep money recirculating in regional economies and improve the U.S. international trade balance.
• Reduce pressure on public institutions because these newer energy assets cut operating costs, reduce emissions and relieve financial pressures on higher education and communities.
• Achieve critical environmental and energy goals, including reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increased local power supplies and reduced peak power demand.

However, due to the economic crisis, many clean energy infrastructure and sustainability projects at public institutions made possible by the bipartisan passage of (EISA) Section 471 have been halted at a time when university endowments have shrunk, credit markets have tightened, and local government tax revenues are down.

Since the immediate and long-term benefits include creating jobs, reducing institutional costs, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, diversifying fuels, and saving energy, I believe urgent action is needed for investments in public sector energy infrastructure. And last week, I sent the following letter, along with a three-page program and benefit summary, to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Dear Senator Feinstein:

I urge you to support, as a part of the economic stimulus bill, $1.5 billion in funding for Energy Sustainability and Efficiency Grants and Loans for Institutions as authorized in the Energy Security and Independence Act (EISA) of 2007. The attached three-page summary describes this program and its benefits.*

By funding EISA Section 471, Congress will provide significant near-term job creation benefits. These shovel-ready projects are also transformative, providing sustained economic stimulus by reducing carbon emissions, increasing economic competitiveness, strengthening power grids and enhancing energy security.

The funding can be quickly and effectively delivered through procurement processes being developed by the Department of Energy as directed in EISA.

Thank you for your interest and support in strengthening our nation's energy infrastructure.

Sincerely yours,
Robert Benz

Since these funds still need to be appropriated, I encourage you to do the same. Urge your members of Congress and U.S. senators to fully fund section 471 Energy Sustainability and Efficiency Grants and Loans for Institutions of Public Law 110-140, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. You can also learn more about this section of the act and other energy programs at the UCLA Sustainability Institute of the Environment.

*Available on request

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