Monday, April 26, 2010

$17M federal retrofit grant to save energy, create jobs

Vice President Joe Biden has announced that the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance (GCEA) has received a $17 million competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (U.S. DOE) as part of its "Retrofit Ramp-Up" initiative to reduce energy bills for the nation's building owners.

Over the next three years, GCEA will use the funding for community outreach and collaboration to increase energy efficiency across the residential, commercial and multi-family sectors in Hamilton County and in the Northern Kentucky counties of Boone, Campbell, and Kenton. Regionally, it is estimated that the program will achieve as much as 250 million kilowatt-hours in electricity savings, 2.5 million therms of gas savings, and as much as a 250,000 ton reduction in greenhouse gases.

Part of the U.S. DOE's $452 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, the grants are expected to have the added benefit of spurring economic growth in the energy efficiency industry. Up to 700 direct and indirect jobs are expected to be created or retained locally.

"This federal funding allows us to leverage private capital to potentially create a local energy efficiency market of up to $50 million per year," said GCEA executive director Andy Holzhauser in a media release. "And that means residents and business owners are saving money on their utility bills, moving our country toward energy independence, and creating or retaining a broad range of jobs from auditors, to skilled trades people, to engineers, and project managers needed to serve this market."

GCEA was one of only 25 award recipients nationwide to receive a grant. The local application was supported by the governments of all four GCEA counties, plus the cities of Cincinnati, Covington and Florence.

The other Ohio awardee was the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which received $15 million. More than $3.5 billion in applications were received by the U.S. DOE, and only New York received more grant money than Ohio.

"The fact that Ohio communities received two of 25 awards today shows that we're recognized as a national leader in sustainable energy projects," said Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. "Ohio ranks in the Top 5 in the United States for clean energy, energy efficiency and environmentally-friendly production jobs. We're building on that solid foundation to create new Ohio jobs and develop an advanced energy industry that is globally competitive."

On May 1, GCEA plans on bringing energy efficiency to the area block by block with a blitz of Cincinnati's Mount Washington neighborhood. Working in conjunction with the City's Neighborhood Enhancement Program, volunteers will knock on nearly 1,000 doors, offering resources to help building owners make their structures more energy-efficient.