California is mobilizing to compete for billions in energy funding from Obama's stimulus package, now referred to as ARRA (the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act).

With Governor Schwarzenegger at the helm the state just formed FEST — the Federal Energy Stimulus Team — which brings together several state agencies and departments including the California Energy Commission, the Public Utility Commission (PUC), the Air Resources Board (ARB), the California EPA, Department of Community Services, the Natural Resources Agency and the Housing Department. Their common purpose?

The governor has declared that California will be the most competitive state in the nation competing for ARRA funding.
On Friday, FEST held an online briefing for an anticipated 300 or so city, county and state officials. But word got out and over 2,800 logged on for the call. It's clear that California is ready, waiting and hungry for the much-needed funds that are quite possibly the best chance California has for a major economic turnaround.

In order to encourage some good ol' free market capitalism, the DOE will be releasing funds in two chunks. The first, approximately $11.3 billion, is primarily non-competitive and is awarded by a formula for each state based on population and need. The second chunk, a significantly larger $30.7 billion, will be awarded competitively. The states that offer up the most compelling projects — the most mature, most job-creating, and most "shovel-ready" — could win enormous grants and loan guarantees.

The DOE has set up an almost military operation for rolling out these funds as quickly as possible by setting up a team of 12 point people at the department, each of whom will cover a four to five state region, California's point being Matthew Duchesne.

Here's the breakdown. Of the $11.3 billion formula-based state grants, the money will be divvied up as follows:

  • $3.1 billion for state energy block grants (60% cities, 40% state)
  • $3.2 billion for energy Efficiency/conservation grants (68% to cities and counties, 28% to state, 2% to tribes, 2% national competition)
  • $5.0 billion for home weatherization
  • $0.3 billion for EnergyStar rebates
As the chart above indicates, this is about 30 times the regular rate of funding for home weatherization and about three times the funding for low-income housing energy upgrades.

The breakdown for the larger competitive-based funding is as follows:

  • $11.0 billion for transmission upgrades and smart grid technology
  • $1.7 billion for transportation upgrades
  • $6.0 billion for renewable energy technologies
  • $8.4 billion for R & D
The state will be utilizing the framework of AB32, currently the most aggressive and sweeping plan by any state to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions. It is designed as:
... a comprehensive set of actions designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California, improve our environment, reduce our dependence on oil, diversify our energy resources, save energy, create new jobs and enhance public health.
Both the CA League of Cities and the California Association of Counties, as well as the State's own recovery website, will all be posting updates for how to apply for specific programs listed above. And several meetings are set to review specific programs. Monday in San Francisco there will be a meeting for energy efficiency grants. And on March 27 there will be a workshop on smart grid planning.

If you want to stay abreast of how the stimulus money is being allocated, you can sign up for all three list serves — city, county and state. California is actively publishing all the updates on the stimulus money, but you can also go to the main DOE Recovery site and click on other states to see what they are up to. 

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