Federal stimulus-funded local and regional energy programs

After the last major economic downturn, the federal government adopted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which provided stimulus funding for priorities including energy efficiency retrofits through the DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative. In California, three regions received millions of dollars to support new building efficiency incentive and assistance programs that targeted privately owned buildings and spurred economic opportunities for the hard-hit building trades. Twelve years later, those regions are now operating as Regional Energy Networks, with stable ratepayer funding authorized by the CPUC to continue offering services like BayREN’s Business programs. Recognizing that incentives and other financial mechanisms are critical for making the investment in energy efficient infrastructure more affordable and accessible to businesses, the BayREN Business program offers rebates, financing, and one-stop-shop technical assistance to ensure small and medium businesses can leverage all available energy saving programs and minimize out-of-pocket expenses. While this is an old example, it may help local governments consider how to take advantage of major State and federal stimulus efforts to create long-lasting support for building retrofits that also strengthen economic recovery. They may also consider how to design new or increased upgrade incentives for small or distressed businesses.