WASHINGTON - Vice President Joe Biden kicked off five days of administration events around the 40th anniversary of Earth Day with the announcement of the selection of 25 communities for up to $452 million in Recovery Act funding to “ramp-up” energy efficiency building retrofits.

Under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Retrofit Ramp-Up initiative, communities, governments, private sector companies, and nonprofit organizations are to work together on programs for concentrated and broad-based retrofits of neighborhoods and towns - and eventually entire states.

According to the federal government, these partnerships will support large-scale retrofits and make energy efficiency accessible to hundreds of thousands of homeowners and businesses. The program is expected to save households and businesses about $100 million annually in utility bills, while leveraging private sector resources, and produce an estimated 30,000 jobs across the country during the next three years.

“For 40 years, Earth Day has focused on transforming the way we use energy and reducing our dependence on fossil fuel - but this year, because of the historic clean energy investments in the Recovery Act, we’re poised to make greater strides than ever in building a nationwide clean energy economy,” said Biden. “This investment in some of the most innovative energy-efficiency projects across the country will not only help homeowners and businesses make cost-cutting retrofit improvements, but also create jobs right here in America.”

“This initiative will help overcome the barriers to making energy efficiency easy and accessible to all - inconvenience, lack of information, and lack of financing,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

“Block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, we will make our communities more energy efficient and help families save money.”

In addition to the $452 million Recovery Act investment, the 25 projects will leverage an estimated $2.8 billion from other sources over the next three years to retrofit homes and businesses across the United States.

Grantees will employ innovative financing models to make these retrofits accessible, for example by offering low and no-interest loans that are repaid through property tax and utility bills. In implementing these projects, grantees are to deliver verified energy savings and incorporate sustainable business models to ensure that buildings will continue to be retrofitted after Recovery Act funds are spent.

The DOE will use the lessons learned from these pilot programs to develop best-practice guides to retrofits that can be adopted and implemented by other communities.

The awards are the competitive portion of DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program, which was funded for the first time under the Recovery Act to help state and local communities make strategic investments to improve energy efficiency, reduce energy use, and cut fossil fuel emissions.

The Retrofit Ramp-Up projects are planned to begin in fall 2010.

Publication date:05/31/2010