Stimulus funds for Arizona energy projects largely unspent

by Jeff Cameron on September 23, 2010

in Business

So much potential. What are we going to do with it???

The reason stimulus funds went to projects like these is they are the future. Demand for energy doubles about every 5 to 7 years. It will start growing exponentially globally as so many people move into the work place in locations such as China and India.

I get so frustrated at my friends that say, “why do you hate oil?” I don’t really hate oil. Many American’s got very rich on oil. Only today we have a choice. We can wait for the market to make alternative energies profitable and then buy all the “stuff” from China or others OR we can lead the evolution. We can do the research and development, very high paying  jobs. We can manufacture, again good paying jobs. We can lead or we can follow. The oil guys want us to follow. They don’t care about our country, only their pocket book.

Time for a change!

Just my opinion…JeffRCameron

Ryan Randazzo – Sept. 19, 2010
The Arizona Republic

With deadlines looming to spend $499 million in stimulus-act money for energy programs in Arizona, the next 18 months should be busy for the renewable-energy industry.

About $443 million, or nearly $9 out of every $10, remains to be spent.

• Search energy projects

Solar panels will be going up on government buildings. Thousands of homes will be weatherized for low-income residents. Electric-car chargers will be installed. And research projects exploring new energy sources will advance at the state’s universities.

Arizona governments and companies have been awarded the funds from the U.S. Department of Energy for a total of 81 projects.

Many deadlines to use the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money fall in 2012. That means the next 18 months offer some guaranteed work for construction crews, lower energy bills for some homeowners and perhaps even a benefit for taxpayers as government buildings become more efficient.

An Arizona Republic review of federal records shows that administrators of many projects still haven’t spent any money as officials review grant applications and bid proposals and jump other hurdles required to spend the money. But many report they are about to pull the trigger.

“There’s a lot of action coming in the October-November timeframe,” said Robin Boudreau, a manager in the Arizona Energy Office.

Arizona has about 271,400 fewer jobs than it did when the recession began in December 2007, and it’s unlikely the stimulus will come close to replacing all those jobs.

But some officials said there is hope the state will erase some of the deficit through energy projects, many providing paychecks for workers in the hard-hit construction industry.

Slow to start

It has taken time to get the grant money spent.

Boudreau, for example, oversees a $9.6 million program that provides grants to rural communities to help them save energy. It offers one snapshot of why the impact of the energy program hasn’t yet been fully realized.

The money has been divided into dozens of projects, ranging from $51,000 for air-conditioner upgrades in Jerome to $66,000 for a geothermal heat pump in Clarkdale, and many are just getting started.

The program has spent about 4 percent of the $9.6 million. First, the communities had to apply for the funds and the state had to review the proposals. Then the communities had to put the jobs out to bid.

There should be no problem meeting the summer 2012 deadline to finish the work, Boudreau said.

“This is not about spending money,” he said. “This is about investing in communities.”

Other projects, such as a $25 million city of Phoenix grant to weatherize homes and businesses along the Metro light-rail line and a $5 million grant to enhance the power grid on the Navajo Reservation, have spent little to nothing.

Phoenix has spent only $17,216 on the weatherization project, federal records show. The money must be spent by June 2013.

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which only recently announced the selection of a vendor to install new power meters, hasn’t spent any money.

Getting started

Other projects are well under way, such as the state’s weatherization program that helps low-income residents fix leaky air ducts and repair inefficient air-conditioners. The state program got $60 million and has spent about one-fourth of it.

Sky Renewable Energy of Phoenix, which has operated since 2001, has been busy working on stimulus-funded projects, including two massive solar-power systems on the state’s Medicaid buildings.

The company still has much stimulus-funded work to do on rural school buildings.

The stimulus projects provide the company a steady stream of business that has kept many workers employed, owner Scott Young said.

“Everything we’re doing is an ARRA grant,” Young said. “Our crews will be working pretty much the next year on these projects.”

The company has about 24 of its 78 employees working on stimulus projects, and all of the components for the projects must come from U.S. factories, according to stimulus guidelines.

“Every U.S.-made solar manufacturer is in high demand now,” Young said. “The stimulus is working.”

Efficiencies and jobs

Gov. Jan Brewer opposed the stimulus act, saying if she had had a vote, she would have cast it against the bill, her spokesman Paul Senseman said. But her administration must ensure that the money coming to Arizona is spent wisely, he said.

“The responsible thing to do as a sitting governor was to make sure those tax dollars are returned to our citizens and not reallocated to some other states,” Senseman said.

“Certainly, we are moving swiftly to get some of these energy-efficiency programs done because they could have long-term energy savings. We are hoping they will help with utility bills in the long run for individuals and local governments.”

It’s impossible to say whether the hundreds of millions being spent will have any effect on the state’s jobless rate, he said.

What’s next

The next challenge will be maintaining economic activity once the stimulus money runs out, said Carolyn Bristo, Phoenix’s sustainability coordinator overseeing the light-rail project.

To ensure that contractors still have weatherization work and that homeowners and businesses still can retrofit their buildings once the stimulus money is gone, the city is seeking banks to provide loans for weatherization.

“The whole intent is that the initiative would be sustained,” she said. “We hope to replicate this throughout the city.”

The city plans a central directory so that people interested in weatherization can be directed to city, state, utility and federal programs that might benefit them, not just the stimulus money, she said.

“We will be like a one-stop shop for residents interested in energy,” she said.

Largest energy grants awarded in Arizona

The following are the five largest U.S. Department of Energy grants to Arizona through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including how much money has been spent so far.

Project Grantee Stimulus grant Spent so far
Electric-car charging units Ecotality Inc. $100.1 million $4.6 million
Weatherization assistance Commerce Department $60.1 million $16 million
Smart-grid investment Salt River Project $56.9 million $10 million
State energy program Commerce Department $55.4 million $4.4 million
Smart-grid investment Southwest Transmission Cooperative Inc. $32.2 million $1.9 million

Leave A Reply With Facebook

Scottsdale, McDowell Mountain Ranch, DC Ranch, Windgate Ranch, Grayhawk and surrounding communities Home Search Scottsdale, McDowell Mountain Ranch, DC Ranch, Windgate Ranch, Grayhawk and surrounding communities Home Values

Post by Jeff Cameron

Jeff has written 712 articles.



Previous post:

Next post: