Patrick-Murray Administration Seeks $60 Million in Federal Recovery Funding for Whole-Neighborhood Energy Efficiency Projects
As co-applicant for Stimulus grant, City of Boston would use funds for Renew Boston Blue Hill Avenue corridor program that incorporates large-scale energy efficiency, rental housing and green workforce development components
The Commonwealth and City co-filed an application late yesterday (12/14) for a portion of $390 million available nationwide from the US Department of Energy (DOE) under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-funded "Retrofit Ramp-Up" program. Within 90 days, the US DOE is expected to fund up to 20 awards of $5 million to $75 million each to programs designed to catalyze energy efficiency upgrades across the country.
"The Patrick Administration is pleased to partner with the City of Boston in seeking this important pool of funding for the state and the city," Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles said. "By penetrating entire neighborhoods, the Retrofit Ramp-Up program offers a unique opportunity to lower utility bills across communities, creating local jobs as well as more comfortable spaces for people to live and work."
If its application is approved by the US DOE, the Commonwealth would put approximately $45 million toward competitively selected community-scale energy retrofit efforts in cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth. Approximately $15 million would be used by the City of Boston for a comprehensive energy retrofit program in Boston's Blue Hill Avenue corridor. With over 60 percent of corridor residents living in rental housing and many spending more than 10 percent of household income on energy costs, Boston's Renew Boston Rental Property Retrofit Program will use a suite of incentives to persuade landlords to invest in comprehensive energy efficiency upgrades that benefit their tenants. This work will compliment the city's existing green jobs program, including plans to seek a US Department of Labor Pathways Out of Poverty grant.
"These clean energy investments will not only improve area homes, but they will transform lives by significantly lowering utility bills and will create good paying green jobs for local residents," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "This represents the true promise of a clean energy future for Boston and the Commonwealth, a future where Blue Hill Avenue becomes a green corridor of opportunity for all. I commend Governor Patrick and his administration for their leadership in sustainable energy and for their partnership in developing this impressive Retrofit Ramp-Up grant application for the US DOE."
The purpose of the Retrofit Ramp-Up program is to fund programs structured to provide whole-neighborhood building energy retrofits - demonstrating sustainable business models for providing economical energy upgrades for a large percentage of residential, commercial and public buildings in specific communities. Stating in a press release that energy efficiency "isn't just low-hanging fruit, it's fruit lying on the ground," US Energy Secretary Steven Chu challenged states to propose innovative programs that can be replicated across the country.
In Massachusetts, the Retrofit Ramp-Up program would build on a growing legacy of success in the energy efficiency field, including the recent launch of the nation's most extensive energy efficiency program - a three-year, $2 billion investment through electric and natural gas utilities that is expected to yield $6.5 billion in savings for consumers. Under the Green Communities Act, the Commonwealth has also recently adopted a new, highly energy efficient State Building Code. And the state is growing its green workforce through training programs implemented by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, including a new Statewide Energy Efficiency and Building Science Skills Initiative based at Springfield Technical Community College.
"Massachusetts is on its way being the nation's energy efficiency leader, but opportunities abound to cut energy waste in homes, stores and office buildings in every corner of the state," DOER Commissioner Phil Giudice said. "This Recovery grant will enable Massachusetts to take the next step by transforming the energy use of entire communities."
In addition to a large-scale community mobilization, the application proposes a substantial mobilization of capital. If the application receives federal approval, DOER and the city of Boston plan to use the $60 million Recovery Act grant as seed capital to leverage up to $300 million in private funding from one or more major financial institutions, as envisioned in the state's three-year energy efficiency program. Program economics will also benefit from participation by investor-owned utilities that will provide rebates for energy efficiency services.
The $360 million investment in energy efficiency ($60 million Recovery grant plus $300 million in leveraged private funds) statewide is expected to yield $41.3 million in annual energy bill savings for Massachusetts households and businesses by the end of the third project year, while supporting community-scale energy retrofit initiatives that can serve as models for additional grassroots energy efficiency efforts. Boston's Rental Property Retrofit Program, targeting properties in the Blue Hill Avenue corridor, is anticipated to produce annual energy bill savings of $8.6 million after three years. Meanwhile, the proposal is projected to create or retain by the end of the three-year project 4,780 green economy jobs statewide, including weatherization contractors, HVAC vendors and installers, energy assessors, and program support personnel. The Renew Boston segment of the program is expected to be responsible for approximately 860 of those jobs.
"This grant would give the City of Boston the opportunity to establish the Blue Hill Avenue corridor as a truly green neighborhood by implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. This type of whole neighborhood transformation sets the benchmark for energy renovation throughout the Commonwealth" said Representative Barry Finegold, chair of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee.
Investment in energy efficiency is a critical component of Governor Patrick's Massachusetts Recovery Plan, which combines state, federal and, where possible, private efforts to provide immediate and long-term relief and position the Commonwealth for recovery in the following ways:
- Deliver immediate relief by investing in the road, bridge and rail projects that put people to work today and providing safety net services that sustain people who are especially vulnerable during an economic crisis;
- Build a better tomorrow through education and infrastructure investments that strengthen our economic competitiveness, prepare workers for the jobs of the future, and support clean energy, broadband, and technology projects that cut costs while growing the economy; and
- Reform state government by eliminating the pension and ethics loopholes that discredit the work of government and revitalize the transportation networks that have suffered from decades of neglect and inaction.