Meg Lusardi, Director
DOER’s Green Communities Division recently closed the books on what will surely be remembered as one of the fastest-paced and most productive initiatives undertaken by the agency: the successful investment of nearly $70 million in US Department of Energy (DOE) funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2008. This infusion of federal funding was particularly well-timed for Massachusetts, coming on the heels of Governor Deval Patrick’s signing of several landmark energy laws, including the Green Communities Act. By investing approximately $54.9 million in State Energy Program (SEP) dollars in programs to support renewable energy and energy efficiency, and $14.7 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funds to assist municipalities to do the same, DOER advanced the Commonwealth closer to the Governor’s vision of a clean energy future.
At a glance, here are some highlights of what was accomplished through ARRA. Under the direction of Leading by Example Program Director Eric Friedman, DOER invested most of the state’s SEP funds in three key areas:
- High Performance Buildings to showcase the potential of deep energy retrofits to reduce building energy consumption by at least 50 percent ($20.3 million)
- Expansion of energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts at state facilities ($16 million)
- Solar Stimulus project to significantly increase solar photovoltaic installations at public, private and institutional facilities throughout the state ($14.4 million).
These funds supported across Massachusetts, putting more than 1,700 individuals to work, cutting energy costs by hundreds of millions of dollars over project lifetimes, leveraging almost $200 million in additional public and private funds, and supporting the preservation and expansion of many local businesses.
Likewise, the Green Communities Division – created just after passage of ARRA – seized the opportunity to invest $11.5 million of its EECBG funding in competitive sub-grants to 94 municipalities with populations under 35,000, supporting the development of renewable energy projects and energy conservation measures in oil or propane heated municipal buildings. The balance of the $14.7 million in ARRA funding went to several programs provided by DOER to all Massachusetts municipalities at no cost: owner’s agent technical assistance to help cities and towns negotiate, develop and manage energy projects; energy code training for local building code officials; and development of MassEnergyInsight, an online tool that enables communities to track their energy consumption in order to inform decisions regarding energy use and efficiency.
Grappling along with other states with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Massachusetts emerged stronger than its counterparts across the country, in part through DOER’s strategic and timely deployment of ARRA funds under the SEP and EECBG programs. Helping to hone the clean energy competencies of state agencies, municipal governments, college campuses and private businesses, Massachusetts’ “ARRA era” leaves a legacy of momentum toward the Commonwealth’s clean energy goals.