2009 Energy Code Adoptions Required by ARRA--Where are They Now?

A long time ago in a first term far away, there was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a.k.a the Stimulus. 

As explained by the DOE, The ARRA section on State Energy Program funding included a statutory provision (Section 410) linking SEP funding to building energy code adoption and enforcement. As a condition of accepting the ARRA funding, the states provided assurances through governor’s letters indicating their state would comply with the terms of Section 410.

All 50 states took ARRA SEP money, and all 50 governors provided commitment letters commiting to do three things relating to building energy codes:

Adopt a building energy code for residential buildings that meets or exceeds the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC),

Adopt a building energy code for commercial buildings and high rise residential that meets or exceeds the ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2007, and;

 Develop and implement a plan, including active training and enforcement provisions, to achieve 90% compliance with the target codes by 2017, including measuring current compliance each year. 

In the four years since ARRA, eighteen states still have no energy code at all or have residential codes that do meet the ARRA requirements, and fifteen states still have no energy code at all or have commercial codes that do not meet the ARRA requirements. A map of the status of every state's energy codes is available here.


I have not been able to find state annual compliance reports or a report by the DOE Office of the Inspector General on the building code commitment aspect of the ARRA funding.   So, there is little, if any, data on when or whether states will comply with their ARRA commitments. [NOTE: I would welcome being proven wrong in this area.  If you have data, please send me a link and put it in the comment section].


Given the vast research that building energy codes are an inexpensive way to acheive energy efficiency, it was a really good idea to tie the ARRA finding to energy code adoption.  Unfortunately, lack of enforcement of ARRA commitments appears to be a missed opportunity to move the country forward in this area.

Spending on Industrial EE Programs Tops $1b

A report released last week by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (“ACEEE”) showed that overall spending on industrial energy efficiency (“EE”) projects is on the rise. 

The report tracked 2010 spending by utilities, state and federal agencies, public benefit fund organizations, and nonprofit entities that was used for providing industrial energy users with incentives, rebates, grants, loans, technical assistance, energy audits, and assessments, among other services to encourage EE. 

Total spending topped $1 billion. While 2010 spending received a boost to the tune of approximately $228 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA”), the rest came from other sources. Research shows that the largest programs, by far, were run by utilities and public benefit fund organizations, who accounted for $737 million of the $1.1 billion pot. 

The report, however, does not account for private spending which would undoubtedly increase that figure substantially. Industrial users of energy have been very pro-active in implementing EE programs to lower operating expenses and protect themselves against spikes in energy costs. The study also leaves out the millions of private sector dollars that are raised through leveraging public funds. However, ACEEE’s data clearly shows an uptick in total industrial EE program spending.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey both finished among the top 10 state spenders. Pennsylvania ranked third, behind New York and California, at about $65 million, while New Jersey spent just under $28 million, providing the Garden State with an 8th place finish. 

Good Intentions Gone Bad: The Cautionary Tale Of Destiny USA And Green Bonds

covered the messy breakdown of the Carousel/Destiny USA project in Syracuse on Monday.  In short, the Destiny USA project was selected as a green "demonstration" project under the 2004 Green Bonds program.  $255 million in tax exempt bonds were issued on behalf of the project, the revenue of which was supposed to be used to implement the green features of the project.  As of now, none of the green features have been implemented, and the developer has intimated that even if the project is fully built out, the green features will not be included.  The IRS will have to decide whether to rescind the tax exempt status of the bonds for failing to meet the green requirements.

I have written at length about creating effective green incentives and regulations (see my Regulating Green Series here).  For me, the most interesting part of this debacle is what it reveals about a major green incentive program.  The Green Bonds program was developed as a part of the America Jobs Creation Act of 2004.  In theory, the program was intended to: 

 finance environmentally friendly development. The objective is to reclaim contaminated industrial and commercial land (brown fields), and encourage energy conservation and the use of renewable energy sources.

Although the goals of the Green Bonds program were clearly noble, as I see it the program was doomed from the start. No market rate project in 2005 could have met all of these requirements.  Thus, the proponents of the projects had reason to overstate the green components of their projects to access $2 billion in tax free capital for the projects. 

According to the IRS Guidance (available here) $2 billion in AAA tax exempt bonds were authorized by the Federal government to be awarded to four demonstration projects.  To qualify for the bonds, the four projects in aggregate had to:

  1. Reduce energy consumption by more that 150 megawatts annually compared to conventional generation;
  2. Reduce daily sulfur dioxide emissions by at least 10 tons compared to coal generated power;
  3. Expand by 75% the domestic solar PV market in the United States as compared to the expansion of that market from 2001-2002, which was 14.424 megawatts (which means an aggregate increase of approximately 11 megawatts, or an average of almost 4 megawatts of PV power per projects);
  4. Use at least 25 megawatts of fuel cell energy generation.

In addition, each project had to be at least 1,000,000 square feet or 20 acres and: 

  1. At least 75% of the square footage had to be LEED certified;
  2. The wood had to be certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative or the American Farm Tree System;
  3. Reclaim a brownfield site

Beyond the green features, the projects also had to create at least 1000 construction jobs and 1,500 full time equivalent jobs. 

In addition to the requirements of the Green Bonds, the Destiny USA project entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the EPA (available here and summary below from Syracuse.com) committing to: 

  1. Using green building design, construction and operation principles to obtain the highest levels of certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
  2. Retrofitting more than 100 construction vehicles with diesel particulate filters and using clean fuel, which will reduce emissions by nearly 85 percent;
  3. Implementing techniques to reduce idling of vehicles during construction
  4. Becoming partners in EPA's Energy Star and WaterSense programs,
    which require the use of energy- and water-efficient appliances;
  5. Using over 3,000 tons of coal ash in place of using newly-manufactured Portland Cement, which will reduce greenhouse gases by over 3,000 tons.

As a policy measure, the green bonds were destined to be ineffective.  For a green incentive to be truly beneficial, it needs to set out goals that stretch its recipients to higher levels of sustainability, but not so pie-in-the-sky that they create an incentive to greenwash their projects.  This is a tough balance to strike.  Doing so requires that the regulatory bodies have a good understanding of the state of the green market that they are looking to incentivize. It is not enough to throw public money at any project claiming to be green.  The result is projects like Destiny USA, which give a bad name to green building and public financing of green projects. 

By contrast, good investment in green projects can bring real benefits.  I analyzed the investment of ARRA funds in green projects.  Per public dollar, these investments were among the most efficient ways of creating jobs of all of the ARRA money spent. (See my analysis here).  As Congress debates the value of continuing public investment in green projects and renewable energy, the debate must not only be about whether, but how, the support will be crafted and implemented.  The road to green is paved with good intentions. 

It's The Economy, Stupid

One of my loyal readers was kind enough to bring to my attention a troubling article from the Washington Post in which a man who had earned 9 green certifications and sent out hundreds of resumes still has yet to receive a single job offer.

In September, I spoke at a Woodrow Wilson Center event on green jobs for women.  Most of the presenters were from non-profit organizations which trained women for green construction jobs.  They all reported that their graduates were having trouble finding work.

The subject of the Washington Post article had been laid off from his job as a surveyor:

Anton has been out of work since 2008, when his job as a surveyor vanished with Florida's once-sizzling housing market.

He then retrained to do solar installation, green demolition, etc. and still could not find a job. 

The Washington Post article waves a wagging finger at the green stimulus spending and the promise of green jobs:

The Obama administration channeled more than $90 billion from the $814 billion economic stimulus bill into clean energy technology, confident that the investment would grow into the economy's next big thing.

The underlying assumptions of the Washington Post article, and many others like it, are inherently flawed.  You cannot wring blood from a stone. The recovery is happening slowly.  Lending is still very tight, meaning that it is difficult to get building projects--green or otherwise--financed. In other words, it's the economy, stupid.

The problem for Mr. Anton is not that he retrained green.  Indeed, his odds of finding a job actually went up through his retraining.  According to the Pew Charitable trust:

[B]etween 1998 and 2007, clean energy economy jobs—a mix of white- and blue-collar positions, from scientists and engineers to electricians, machinists and teachers—grew by 9.1 percent, while total jobs grew by only 3.7 percent. And although we expect job growth in the clean energy economy to have declined in 2008, experts predict the drop in this sector will be less severe than the drop in U.S. jobs overall.

Mr. Anton, and millions of others like him, are out of work not because the promise of a green economy failed, but because the economy failed.

Articles like the Washington Post piece also claim that the promise of the green economy as a job engine has been over-hyped.  This is not because the idea that green technology and renewable energy is not a potential new source of job growth--just look at China.  Even our own stimulus plan demonstrates that green stimulus projects create the most jobs per dollar of any of the stimulus initiatives. 

Rather, since Obama came into office and pushed a "green" stimulus plan, the public policy initiatives that underpin a successful green economy (not to mention a healthier environment)--like control of carbon through cap or tax, a national renewable energy portfolio, etc.--have been jettisoned.  With no new real economic engine or dynamism, the overall economy is recovering slowly. Yet, despite these obstacles, green job creation is still outpacing other sectors. 

So, perhaps the Washington Post article should have asked a different question: If green is not the next big thing, what did the other $724 billion buy you? 

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Mortgage: The Sad Tale Of PACE "Greenlining"

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the Feds today to reinstate the PACE program.  The PACE program was a component of ARRA (the Stimulus Bill for those of you non-lawyer geeky types who still choose to read my blog) which allowed the upfront costs of property owners’ clean energy and energy efficiency projects to be financed by local governments, and paid back by homeowners as an increase in  their property taxes. 

The concept behind the PACE program is that the energy savings from energy efficiency and clean energy projects would outstrip the costs over time, but that the upfront costs were a barrier to many people in implementing the badly needed changes. 

Several municipalities and states had implemented these programs, and it sounded like such a good idea that $150 million in the ARRA was dedicated to support them.

Homeowners are able to do the energy upgrades, local governments can take action to ameliorate climate change and the Federal government will help with the financing.  Everybody's happy, right?

Not so fast. The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates government sponsored mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates national banks stopped the PACE programs in their tracks.  According to the NRDC's complaint, available here, the Defendants refused to issue mortgages that had a PACE loan in first priority. 

According to the NRDC press release summary of the claims:

NRDC is suing the agencies for halting the programs without justification, and for doing so without following the proper protocol as required by law. This includes failing to conduct a review of the environmental impacts and to provide the public an opportunity to comment before taking this action.

The objections to the actions on PACE have mainly to do with statutory procedural requirements for administrative agency action, the suit serves to shed a light on what is essentially "greenlining"--a modern day equivalent of "redlining."    

 In 1935, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB) asked Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) to look at 239 cities and create "residential security maps" to indicate the level of security for real-estate investments in each surveyed city. Such maps defined many minority neighborhoods in cities as ineligible to receive financing. The maps were based on assumptions about the community, not accurate assessments of an individual's or household's ability to satisfy standard lending criteria. Since African-Americans were unwelcome in white neighborhoods, which frequently instituted racial restrictive covenants to keep them out, the policy effectively meant that blacks could not secure mortgage loans at all.

The foreclosure crisis that stemmed from complicated financial instruments legitimately scared the wits out of the Federally backed mortgage entities.  But now they are too scared to even do the right thing and support a new financial model that has the possibility of allowing millons of homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient--which will, in turn, create demand for green products and people to manufacture them and install them, which will enable those people to...pay their mortgages.

What The USGBC's Top 10 Green Building Legislation List Tells Us About The State Of Federal Regulation Of Green Buildings

Last week, the USGBC announced its list of the Top 10 Pieces of Green Building Legislation in the 111th Congress.  Top of the list were the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the Stimulus Bill, and the American Clean Energy and Security Act, better known as Waxman Markey.  I have posted about these pieces of legislation extensively--here for Waxman-Markey posts and here for ARRA posts.  So I was interested to see what the rest of the list had to offer in terms of overall perspective on Federal regulation of green buildings:

1. It's all about incentives.

Heaven forbid that Congress should force anyone to do anything.  With the exception of Waxman-Markey, the bills selected by the USGBC are all incentive based, providing funds for energy efficiency, water savings, etc. 

2. It's not very innovative.

There are only two bills on the list which I consider to be innovative or interesting.  The Federal Personnel Training Act of 2010 (yet to be introduced) which focuses on training federal personnel to operate and maintain high performance buildings, and S. 1619, the Livable Communities Act of 2009 which seeks to establish an Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities and provides $4 billion in grants to incentivize integrated community planning and implementation of sustainable projects. I like the first bill because it recognizes the need to raise the skills of implementing federal employees to realize the benefits of high performance buildings, and I like the second because it recognizes the linkage between planning and sustainability.   

3. Building Codes are not addressed.

Waxman-Markey, and its Senate counterpart The American Clean Energy And Leadership Act, both have some provision for creating a national energy efficient building code.  The other bills, however, do not attempt to address the key policy lever of building codes to enhance sustainable construction and save resources. This is probably because of the enormous political fight involved, both in wresting control of building codes away from states and local governments, and with the private interests involved in the building industry.   

The Renewable Energy Tax Code Wilderness--Production, Investment and Grants OH MY!

I will make an admission.  I took tax in law school, and, it was the academic equivalent of having my left arm sawed off without anaesthesia.  Why? Mostly because things which should have been clear seemed hopelessly obscure.  Now I deal with advising clients on incentives available for sustainable projects, and the tax code and I have had to battle to a stalemate.  At least, I battle, and the tax code just sits there impentarably.

One of the features which is particularly difficicult is the relationship between 26 USC 45, which deals with tax credits for producing renewable energy (the "production tax credit" or PTC), 26 USC 48 which deals with tax credits for investing in renewable energy equipement (the "investment tax credit" or ITC) and the Renewable Energy Grant created by the ARRA.  All three of these relate to businesses which have installed renewable energy technologies, like solar, wind and geothermal.  It should be clear and easy to understand which ones apply to your business and what the incentive will be.  As with all things related to the tax code, however, it is not.

I am going to attempt to clear up some of the obscurity, but, as with all information on this blog, it is for informational purposes only, not legal advice; and you should consult your legal and financial advisor to provide you with proper advice for your business.

Title Applies to Amount of Incentive
Production Tax Credit
  •  Wind
  • Biomass
  • Geothermal
  • Solar
  • Small Irrigation
  • Municipal solid waste
  • Hydropower
  • Marine and Hydrokinetic
 1.5 cents per kW of power generated at a qualified facility for the 10 years beginning on the date the facility was placed in service AND sold to an unrelated person during the taxable year
Investment Tax Credit
  •  Solar for heating, cooling, hot water, illumination or solar process heat
  • Fuel cell
  • Microturbine
  • Geothermal
  • Combined heat and power (cogeneration)
  • Small wind
  • Ground water thermal
 30% of the cost of the "energy property" for solar and small wind, 10% for geothermal and other renewable sources
Renewable Energy Grant  Applicable property under Section 45 or 48  10% or 30% of the basis of the property, depending on the type of property placed in service during 2009 or 2010 or after 2010 if construction began on the property during 2009 or 2010 and the property is placed in service by a certain date known as the credit termination date

The incentives are mutually exclusive--The PTC and the ITC cannot both be taken, and they can be swapped for the REG, but you cannot take the PTC/ITC and the REG.

In plain english, it appears that the PTC is designed for renewable energy sources where the power is designed to be sold to others as a Renewable Energy Credit, and the ITC is designed for renewable energy sources where the power is used on-site.  The Renewable Energy Grant allows companies which have invested in either type of renewable energy capacity to receive cash, as opposed to a tax credit, which is helpful particularly if the company has no tax liability or a tax loss. 

 There are some resources available to help you sort through this morass.  The DSIRE database has quick summaries of available state and federal incentives.  The Utah Clean Energy site has a nice summary of the renewable energy features of the ARRA.   The DOE site has a useful summary of renewable energy incentives for businesses as well.

How Green Is Your Stimulus--Year End Check In On Green Spending Under The ARRA

In July, I wrote an analysis of the “green” spending in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act—ARRA, also known as the “stimulus bill.” I concluded that as of July the spending on green programs accounted for only .28% of the total allocation for those programs in the ARRA-- $33.2 million had been paid out for green stimulus programs, and an additional $307 million in public transit dollars.

So…where are we four months later? More money has been paid out--about $1.5 billion--but it pales in comparison to the $83.8 billion  paid out in tax benefits as of 11/06/09, and spending on non-green projects.

Here are the stats in detail:

Energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy--Department of Energy

As of 7/17/09 the Department of Energy had paid out $264,457,144. $16,796,000 had been awarded for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, of which $3,189,150 had actually been awarded. BOTTOM LINE IN JULY: $3 million

As of 11/06/09, the Department of Energy had paid out $1,346,197,498. $16,796,000 had been awarded for energy efficiency and renewable energy, of which $10,651,341,856 had actually been awarded, and $347,779,891 paid out. BOTTOM LINE IN NOVEMBER: $347.8 million.

Increase from July: $344.8 million.

High Performance Green Buildings--General Services Administration

As of 7/17/09 overall the GSA has paid out $12,743,040. of available $656,418,268 of which $6,807,468 has been paid out for federal buildings, which includes high performance building projects. According to the GSA, $4,500,000,000 was appropriated by Congress, $318,750,279 obligated to date (contracts awarded) and $230,771 outlayed to date (work completed & paid).

As of 10/06/09 overall the GSA has paid out $333,444,141, of which $67,324,333 been paid out for federal buildings, which includes high performance building projects.

Public Transit--Department of Transportation

As of 7/17/09 the DOT has paid out $773,662,175 of a total available $22,188,399,591. For rail and other transit funding, including Amtrak, obligations of $3,921,784,326.72, outlay of $306,918,718.00 (this includes state block grants).  BOTTOM LINE IN JULY: $307 million in public transit funding outlaid as of 7/17/09.

As of 10/30/09 the DOT has paid out $5,551,384,466 out of a total available $30,514,836,708. For rail and other transit funding, including Amtrak, obligations of $7,539,142,781.45, outlay of $824,343,952.21 (this includes state block grants).  BOTTOM LINE IN NOVEMBER: $824 million in public transit funding outlaid as of 10/30/09.

Increase from July: $517 million.

Everything the EPA Is Doing--Environmental Protection Agency

As of 7/17/09, EPA has paid out $30,515,805 of the $5,713,481,497 it was allocated. Assuming that all that the EPA does is in some way green related, and this is a big assumption on my part, as much of the EPA funds have been dedicates to water resources and cleanup of hazardous sites, that adds another $30 million. BOTTOM LINE IN JULY:  $30 Million

As of 11/06/09, EPA has paid out $365,636,685. Assuming that all that the EPA does is in some way green related, and this is a big assumption on my part, as much of the EPA funds have been dedicates to water resources and cleanup of hazardous sites, that adds another $366 million. BOTTOM LINE IN NOVEMBER:  $366 Million

Increase from July: $336 million.


The overall spending—i.e. money that has been paid out for green projects—in the first 10 months of 2009 amounts to over $1.5 billion. This is not nothing, and a vast improvement from the summer. On the other hand, $83.8 billion has been paid out in tax benefits as of 11/06/09, and allocation on highway infrastructure by the Department of Transportation alone was $20.2 billion of which $3.7 billion has been paid out. 

**A word about methodology--all of the above statistics were gleaned from Recovery.gov , the Recovery websites of the individual agencies, and my personal agency contacts.  For the DOT recovery site, go here.  For the GSA recovery site, go here.  For the DOE recovery site, go here. For the EPA recovery  site, go here.  There is a wealth of information available, and I welcome any input or different statistical or mathematical analyses from the Green Building Law Community.**

Shari Shapiro On MSNBC

I know, I said I was going on maternity leave, but before I do so, I will appear on MSNBC tomorrow, November 17, 2009 at 2:30 E.S.T. to discuss green spending through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus bill.  My original post on this topic is available here