Big Money Targets Weatherization

August 5, 2009

Hundreds of thousands of US homeowners are in line to receive government dollars that they can stuff into the leaks around their windows, doors, and electrical fixtures. The topic of weatherization might normally seem a bit mundane, but the sheer magnitude of the current program, and its relative importance in increasing energy efficiency and combating climate change, make it a story worth covering.

The Dept. of Energy is designating $5 billion for states to distribute to various weatherization projects. Just in June and July 2009, DoE announced distributions to 23 states and DC, totaling about $900 million and destined for about 294,000 homes. In March 2009, DoE had rolled out a series of 50 announcements about the first phase of this program, in which 10% of a state's potential funding was distributed so each state could develop its training and ramp-up efforts for the full program. The June and July announcements brought the funding in those states and DC up to the 50% level, and similar funding for other states should soon be announced.

June-July 2009 announcements, which will help you find the right agencies and people to contact, include:

One of the prominent hooks for these stories is how important weatherization is in the energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, and carbon dioxide reduction pictures.

For instance, the feature article in the July 2009 Environmental Health Perspectives includes a series of helpful charts that shows that weatherization offers one of the better options for the combined considerations of lifecycle cost benefit and CO2 reduction. Retrofitting residential buildings is estimated to have just a slight lifecycle cost, while such procedures are right in the mid-range for their ability to avoid CO2 emissions. In contrast, hybrid cars offer the best CO2 reduction potential, but have by far the highest lifecycle cost. At the other end of the spectrum, improvements in commercial and residential electronics have the lowest lifecycle cost in fact offering large net savings but provide the lowest total CO2 reductions.

For additional insights on energy efficiency measures, see the report "Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy," released July 29, 2009, by McKinsey & Company.

In related news, DoE and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development announced May 6, 2009, that they were cooperating on weatherization programs to be funded through this $5 billion provided through the Recovery Act. In total, DoE and HUD received $16 billion through the Recovery Act for various residential energy efficiency programs, including weatherization. The cooperative effort is intended in part to help avoid redundancy, waste, and citizen frustration; tracking down whether these goals are achieved will be an important angle to follow.

In addition to tracking weatherization funding in the state(s) you cover, you can begin to get a better picture of other federal money being funneled toward each state for other energy efforts, such as wind, solar, and biomass programs, other energy efficiency programs, and other state energy programs. Click on each state here.