Before signing what President Barack Obama called "the most sweeping economic recovery package in our history" -- the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -- he spoke of how the United States can now convert crisis into opportunity, like making the country more energy efficient.

"Just as President Kennedy sparked an explosion of innovation when he set America's sights on the moon, I hope this investment will ignite our imagination once more, spurring new discoveries and breakthroughs that will make our economy stronger, our nation more secure, and our planet safer for our children," Obama said.

Among goals he spoke of on Feb. 17, 2009, Obama would like to see the nation's amount of renewable energy doubled in the next three years.

Green Initiatives Funding

More than $42 billion of the $787 billion package will fund energy-related investments that range from homeowners' tax credits to direct government grants.

The Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) received $16.8 billion from the stimulus bill. According to EERE's Web site, this funding is nearly a tenfold increase from fiscal 2008 when the office received $1.7 billion. Some of that money will be used as follows:

  • $2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development, demonstration and deployment activities. Of the $2 billion, not less than $800 million should go toward biomass and not more than $400 million should go toward geothermal technologies.
  • $1 billion for grants to institutional entities for energy sustainability and efficiency.
  • $3.2 billion for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants.

According to EERE, "The grants will go toward states, local governments and tribal governments to support the development of energy efficiency and conservation strategies and programs, including energy audit programs and projects to install fuel cells and solar, wind and biomass power projects at government buildings."

  • $3.1 billion will go to the State Energy Program, which provides grants to states to address energy priorities and fund emerging renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. EERE said, "The act only allows such grants for states that intend to adopt strict building energy codes and intend to provide utility incentives for energy efficiency measures."
  • $200 million will implement programs authorized through the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The act's purpose is "to move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers, to increase the efficiency of products, buildings and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the federal government, and for other purposes."
  • $2 billion will go toward manufacturing advanced batteries.

A statement from the U.S. Conference of Mayors said: "One of the most important aspects of this agreement is that it funds a new sector of green jobs through an Energy Block Grant enabling cities to continue with local energy conservation efforts already under way. [More than] 900 cities have signed the Mayors' Climate Protection agreement, which calls for significant local action to combat global warming in cities across the nation. This block grant will support the mayors' local efforts to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and stimulate the deployment of new and alternative energy practices."

Data Center Investment

According to Greentech Media, $50 million of EERE's stimulus funding could be used to improve data center efficiency. Data center investments could include the creation of best practices guides and demonstrations.

Environmental Aid

The U.S. Interior Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been allotted $9.2 billion for environmental projects, like helping local government protect drinking water and building energy-efficient visitor centers at national parks.

Cold War-era hazardous sites will also get a cut of the money for cleanup. This includes cleaning the Hanford nuclear weapons site -- the U.S.'s most contaminated nuclear area.

Elaine Rundle  |  Staff Writer