While the Inflation Reduction Act has been at the forefront of energy efficiency policy discussions since it was passed in August, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also includes provisions to combat climate change. Passed in November 2021, the bill includes a variety of lofty goals that can be read about in full on the White House website. A dominant theme of the bill is a push for climate resilient infrastructure that will help achieve a net-zero economy by 2050, with initiatives such as improvements to public transit and passenger rail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, upgrades to power infrastructure that move towards clean energy, and initiatives to clean up legacy pollution from now dormant industrial sites.
In the latest move to fulfill the promises made in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, $550 million in funding for state, Tribal, and local governments to put towards energy efficiency and conservation projects through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program. The Department of Energy outlines a variety of qualifying projects, including building energy audits, establishing incentive programs like rebates for energy efficiency improvements, and program development and implementation for a variety of efficiency and conservation efforts. This funding falls under the Justice40 initiative, which was established to ensure that 40% of benefits from clean energy investments helped disadvantaged communities.
The EECBG Program was initially funded in 2009 under the Obama administration. According to a survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, grants from that round of funding were used for projects such as government, residential, and commercial buildings retrofits; energy efficient street lighting upgrades; updates to building codes to encourage energy efficiency alternatives; and transportation infrastructure improvements such as bike lanes and EV charging stations. These trends give some insight into what sorts of projects citizens can expect from the upcoming round of funding.
While the grants will initially go to governments, there are a number of ways that funding will flow into the community. Energy efficiency projects benefit everyone in the community by contributing to a better environment through decreased pollution, lower energy costs, and more. Some of these benefits may end up in the hands of community members, as well. The U.S. Conference of Mayors survey referenced above suggests that 13% of grant recipients invested the majority of their funds into rebate and loan programs for both homeowners and businesses.
The funding allocated towards energy efficiency projects is another huge step forward in the fight against climate change. We remain optimistic about the future and excited to see how these funds will be used to shape communities. Applications for EECBG funding are expected to open as early as January 2023; for updates, check the Department of Energy’s official website.