Does The EPA Have A Thing Against Building Energy Codes?

What if there was a technology that had a 20 year track record of saving 4.8 quads of energy and 41 million tons of carbon, while saving consumers more than $44 billion over the past 20 years, and was anticipated to save consumers up to $230 billion on their utility bills, 53 quads of energy and 3,995 million tons of carbon from 2012-2040? 

What if the return on that technology was $400:$1--for every $1 of government program money spent, the return in cost savings was $400?

You would think that the EPA would have that technology at the top of its list of ways for states to reduce energy use and carbon emissions to comply with its new Clean Power Plan regulations. Instead, the EPA's response was "meh:"  

[Building energy codes*] might have substantial impact[], and the EPA does not want to discourage their implementation in state plans, but they might require development of appropriate quantification, monitoring, and verification protocols. The EPA and its federal partners intend to discuss the development of appropriate EM&V protocols for such measures with states in the coming years.

Federal Register, Vol. 79, No. 117, Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 34921.

I don't know why the EPA seems to have a thing against energy codes.  Perhaps it is that energy codes do not require cool new technology like carbon capture.  They do not require states to implement new programs or hire new personnel, because all 50 states already have building codes in place, either at the state or municipal level.  Or maybe it is because when you go to a cocktail party and start to talk about building energy codes, people feel compelled to refill their plate of cheez-its.       

But what I do know is that the EPA's concerns about building energy codes seem to run contrary to recent scholarship and state experience with building energy code programs.  

Two recent publications—one from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and a joint study by the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, the Edison Foundation and the Institute for Market Transformation—have protocols for measuring and verifying building energy code program savings.  In addition, over 10 states have included building energy code programs in their utility energy efficiency programs, many of which include M&V protocols.  

Even if the EPA is correct that there is some uncertainty and variability in M&V of building energy codes, the evidence of energy and carbon reductions for other compliance pathways that EPA supports, like carbon capture and storage, are much, much less certain.  

You have until October 16, 2014 to submit a comment on the proposed rule, letting EPA know that building energy codes should be at the top of its list of compliance paths, not the bottom.  

* Building energy codes are  minimum  standards for energy efficient design and construction for new and renovated buildings.  Like all construction codes, building energy codes are adopted as law by states and municipalities, and enforced by building code officials.          

DOE Releases Green Lease Website, and More Musings on the Split Incentive "Problem"

The Department of Energy and several interesting partners (both BOMA and NRDC, for example) have launched a website consolidating green lease resources.  It is available here.  A number of public agency versions of leases, as well as some guidance documents are included.

Much is made of green leases, and the "split incentive problem" that is seen as a barrier to green building, and which green leases are designed to address.  The frequently cited example of the split incentive problem is where the tenant pays for utilities, as in a triple-net lease.  The landlord does not have an incentive to invest in energy efficient or green capital improvements because they will not see the benefits of the energy savings. Another example is which party will be responsible for maintaining green featuress of tenant space.

My feeling on this topic has always been that it is illusory. 

All lease negotiations, at some level, address the conflicting interests of landlords and tenants.  If energy and/or sustainability was an important enough issue, the parties will negotiate a solution. 

In other words, put lawyers in a room with enough diet coke, and there will be a drafting solution to the split-incentive problem. Indeed, the varied resources on the DOE site are a testament to the fact that enough diet coke exists to solve the green lease issue in several different ways.

So, I think the "split incentive" problem is really one of priority.  Energy costs represent about $1 per square foot, in a $150+ per square foot lease.  Thus, they will not rise to the top of the make-or-break lease terms. 

This is not to discount the value of the resource that DOE has put together, but rather to put it into context.  The green lease resources reduce the transaction costs associated with including green/energy efficiency terms in a standard lease.  If the poor lawyers don't have to draft the provisions from scratch, and the parties do not have to negotiate from a blank slate,  they are more likely to be included. 

Energy Efficiency Policy Report Published

As I mentioned in a previous post, I led a study this summer analyzing the legal policy and process factors impacting commercial building energy efficiency in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  The study was commissioned by the Department of Energy-led Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC). The results of the study and a presentation I gave on the findings are now available through the GPIC site

The purpose of the study was to identify the most significant policy and legal-related process factors effecting energy efficiency (“EE”) in commercial buildings in the Greater Philadelphia area. The research focused on policy areas such as the structure of government, specific laws and regulations, government funded or mandated incentives and other financing mechanisms. Processes included legal-related factors impacting EE transactions, such as contracts, leases, public bidding requirements, and accounting standards.

The study revealed that between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the state and local governments have implemented almost all of the policy levers that advocates have called for to increase EE. For example, both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have up-to-date building and energy codes. The states have invested hundreds of millions of dollars collected from utility ratepayers in EE incentive programs. New Jersey has experimented with alternative rate structures for utilities. Therefore, the primary recommendation of this study is to conduct further legal and market research to compare the effectiveness of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania regulatory initiatives designed to address the efficiency gap, including the incentive and ratemaking efforts.


Although many policies are in place to promote EE, direct and indirect barriers still exist. For example, until August 2011, New Jersey did not allow sub-metering of multi-family residential buildings, creating a direct barrier to energy management. The indirect barriers are numerous, and include even the structure of government itself. For example, the multitude of governing bodies and the often inconsistent policy goals of each result in a fragmented and sometimes contradictory set of policies regarding EE.


Finally, the study found that market processes necessary for smooth transactions and full valuation of EE construction are immature, increasing transaction costs and making EE investments less valuable. For example, appraisers of EE buildings frequently ignore or undervalue EE upgrades. As a result, owners may not recoup their investment at the sale of the property, or their cost to borrow against their assets may be compromised.
 

 

 I welcome feedback from the GBLB community on the findings. 

Energy Efficiency Policy After ARRA--Access to Capital is Not Enough

My loyal readers may have been surprised (or relieved) by my hiatus from publishing.  I was not idle, however.  I led a study on Energy Efficiency Policy in New Jersey and Pennsylvania on behalf of the Department of Energy-funded Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings.  I completed the work last week, and it will be released soon. 

I have also been advising New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on developing the 2011 Energy Master Plan for New Jersey.  The draft plan is available here.  The findings of the eight-person work group on clean energy will be made public shortly, and public hearing is being held on October 21 from 9:30-12:30 at the Rutgers Eco-Complex.  Details are available here

My public sector work has given me some new insights into green building and energy efficiency policy, which will be developed in further posts over the next few months. 

Among the most interesting findings is the difficulty in crafting public policy initiatives to break through the “efficiency gap”—the gap between a customer’s actual investments in energy efficiency and those that appear to be in the consumer’s best interest.

Most policy efforts are aimed at eliminating the "first cost" barrier to energy efficiency.  In other words, providing grants or loans to minimize the upfront investment required for energy efficient systems.  

Making these programs work to achieve scale and realize significant energy savings has proven devilishly difficult.    With the influx of ARRA funds, state and local jurisdictions have invested $650 million in loan programs for energy efficiency projects, with loans generally provided to customers at low- or zero- interest rates. 

The author of a May 2010 nationwide study of state, utility and municipal loan programs by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded:

Despite the advantages of state, utility and municipal loan programs, participation to date has been modest, and they appear to be incapable of driving a large scale transition to a clean energy future by themselves.

A study just released in September, 2011 by the ACEEE which reviewed 24 financing programs nationwide concluded that participation rates were generally low across programs, and do not generally track energy savings.  The report concluded:

While several programs have many years of experience and have issued thousands of loans, this market has yet to come to scale. 

So, it is clear that transforming the energy efficiency environment will require more than providing low cost capital from government sources for at least two reasons.  First, because government capital and capital deployment mechanisms are not robust enough to create scale, and second, because the barriers to energy efficiency are not merely financial.  Psychological barriers, cultural barriers, resource barriers and technical barriers also play important roles.  [This report nicely summarizes the various barriers to energy efficiency investment by sector.]

From my research, policymakers must focus on better stimulating private capital deployment and integrating financing with tools to address other barriers to energy efficiency. Understanding consumer motivation, providing resources to address the less concrete barriers to energy efficiency, and partnering with private capital sources to bring financing to scale  should be the goals of energy efficiency policies going forward.

Green Is Good--Stimulus Shows More Green Funding Means More Jobs Per Public Dollar

I have been tracking the green stimulus spending since June 2009. In November 2009, actual dollars spent on green projects was $1.5 billion.  Now, in November 2010, dollars actually paid to date on green projects is approximately $11 billion.  It amounts to approximately 7% of contract spending from the Stimulus bill (which does not include tax benefits), and 2.6% of the total stimulus money paid to date. 

By agency, the spending on green breaks out as follows:

  Allocated Paid Out Unit % Paid
         
DOE 33.29 9.4 Billion 28.24%
Energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy 16.50 4 Billion 26.06%
EPA (9/30) 7.20 4 Billion 62.22%
GSA 6.10 1.42 Billion 23.28%
Green Buildings 5.50 1 Billion 18.18%
DOT 40.40 22.3 Billion 55.20%
High Speed Rail 3.00 1 Billion 33.33%
Total Agency 86.99 38 Billion 43.22%
Total Green 32.20 11 Billion 33.48%
Total Contract Spending 275.00 156.7 Billion 56.98%
Total Stimulus 787.00 403.4 Billion 51.26%
% Green of Contract Spending 11.71% 6.88%    
% Green of Total Stimulus 4.09% 2.67%    

[I used the same methodology as described in detail here. If you are a data geek like me, you can do your own number crunching at Recovery.gov and the agency recovery sites who do weekly reporting in Excel on the allocation and spending of the Stimulus money.  There is a wealth of information available, and I welcome any input or different statistical or mathematical analyses from the Green Building Law Community.] 

At the initiation of the Stimulus, Obama touted the green components of the stimulus bill.  He has also been very positive on the prospect of green jobs. Opponents of the stimulus bill, and waning support of green initiatives and green jobs in general, has been on the rise.

So the question becomes: what is the value of the 3% of the Stimulus that went to green iniatives, and was the return on investment higher or lower than the other initiatives that were funded by the stimulus? The answer to the ROI question is "yes"-- Agencies tasked with green funding (DOE, EPA, GSA) hold 3 of the top 10 most efficient job creating agencies that were allocated stimulus funding:

 

  Stimulus Funds Paid Jobs Created Dollars Per Job
Department of Justice $2,013,343,173 16330.59 $123,286.62
National Science Foundation $817,277,981 5503.36 $148,505.27
Department of the Interior $1,545,986,174 10047.13 $153,873.41
Department of Education $66,652,472,918 341668.74 $195,079.22
Department of Energy $9,691,290,357 42262.17 $229,313.60
General Services Administration $1,493,185,840 5773.82 $258,613.16
Department of Housing and Urban Development $7,270,460,291 27640.01 $263,041.16
Department of Homeland Security $598,741,846 2137.91 $280,059.43
Environmental Protection Agency $4,608,982,170 16233.68 $283,914.81

  By contrast, the two departments which spent the most money, the Department of the Treasury (tax cuts) and the Social Security Administration only created 188 direct jobs.

Department of the Treasury $8,575,280,379 144.27 $59,439,109.86
Social Security Administration $13,727,406,290
44.75
$306,757,682.46

It will be argued that the tax cuts, etc. indirectly created jobs by pumping more money into the economy.  But there is a direct way to measure the impact of a single green dollar.  To address this, I looked at the statistics for the GSA.  Unlike other agencies which allocate money through states to programs or disperse it to individual taxpayers, the GSA contracts directly with builders and other direct contract fund recipients to build or renovate federal buildings.

As of September 30, 2010, the GSA had saved or created 5773.82 jobs (how you have .82 of a job I can't say). The stat is here. The GSA was 16th in the agencies recieving funding, and the12th net job creating agency.  But on a job per dollar basis, the GSA the 6th most efficient job creating agency at $258,613.16 per job created.   

Do not fall into this statistical trap "$258k per job? We could have created five $50k jobs for that money!"  Remember, this dollars per job includes materials and costs of the jobs involved (bricks, mortar, etc.), which also have downstream job creating effects (brick makers, concrete haulers, etc.).

Tomorrow, I will post an interview I had at Greenbuild with Kevin Kampschroer, the Director of the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings at GSA in which he gave insight not only into the GSA's experience with the Stimulus spending, but also on the long term impacts the Stimulus spending had on the operation of the GSA itself. 

Oh right! Enforcement! We forgot.

Several stories recently have highlighted the other side of the regulatory coin--regulations are onlyeffective if they are enforced. 

On Monday, the Department of Energy issued 27 penalty notices to companies for failure to meet energy efficiency and water conservation standards.

According to Green Wombat:

For the first time in 35 years, the United States Department of Energy is moving to enforce decades-old energy efficiency and water conservation standards for products like refrigerators, light bulbs and shower heads.

Baltidome challenged Baltimore's enforcement of the city's green building code with respect to a new development being considered for the city center. 

Whether these enforcement actions are legitimate (Baltimore lawyer Stuart Kaplow did a little digging and reported to me that the senior policy making public official reviewing the project  assured him that the project, as designed, complies with the law), it is worth discussing what impact enforcement of energy efficiency codes, building codes, tree planting regulations and open space requirements THAT ARE ALREADY ON THE BOOKS could have on greening the United States. 

Part of the problem is that putting laws on the books is cheap, and enforcement is expensive.  It requires expertise, personnel, lawyers, inspectors and so forth to make it work.  In this era of contrained resources, it is nice to see that the DOE is enforcing some of its regulations.  Let us hope that other regulatory bodies follow suit, like the Federal Trade Commission, which is in charge of false green advertising claims, but has only filed a handful of enforcement actions over the years.   

 

 

Where Are The Green Jobs For Women?

I am speaking today and the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC at a forum on green jobs for women.  Although policymakers assert that government investments in green initiatives can produce 20% more jobs than traditional economic stimulus measures, women are not finding as much employment in the green sector as men.  I wrote about this issue for the first time last year, my original post is here.

The issue that I am presenting on today is the low representation of women in white-collar green jobs.  When polticians talk aboout green jobs, the focus is most often on blue-collar work--workers insulating homes or installing solar panels.  There is no doubt that women are historically underrepresented in manual labor contruction work--women account for just 3% of building trade workers.  This gender disparity is no different when electricians turn from hooking up HVAC units to hooking up solar arrays. 

But what about white collar green jobs? There are no practical barriers to entry for women to become construction or energy lawyers, to finance green projects or to create businesses that develop or market innovative green products.  Gender equity is only one of the issues here--it is new efforts in these areas which will create demand for blue-collar and white-collar workers alike, and create new revenue to reinvigorate the American economy. 

And yet women are underrepesented in these areas as well.  Women make up just 16% of the leadership of the ABA Construction Law Committee, and a lower percentage of scientists, researchers, engineers and financiers.

What to do? 

  • Qualify white collar green jobs for economic incentives--this will benefit the green economy as a whole.  If there are no new businesses creating demand for people to caulk houses or build solar arrays, all the green job training in the world will be wasted. This will benefit men and women alike.
  • Create targeted green training (and RE-training) programs for women in law, business, engineering and finance. Alumni groups from higher education institutions could take on this effort, and make the training available not only for their alumni, but to professionals within their geographical area.
  • Create set-asides in green purchasing programs for women-owned green buisnesses, particularly in government programs and large companies going green,.
  • Take on the issue--USGBC and other high profile green organizations and government entities need to make women's participation in the green economy a priority.

 

What We're Reading

Today I am going to highlight a bunch of interesting articles that have come out lately which interest me. Some of these will become future posts, but I want to highlight them as they come out to keep my readers up to date, and give you something to read in your spare time.

1. The USGBC issued a short white paper on Greening the Codes and the compatibility of LEED with green codes.  It is very good, and makes the point that LEED and green codes work together to encourage green building. 

2. The United States Council Of Mayors passed resolutions to promote green building in cities, including encouraging the passing of a clean energy bill by Congress and the adoption of green construction codes.

3. The DOE announced $76 million in green building and energy efficiency technology grants.

So now I want to know...What are YOU reading? 

DOE Meeting To Address Heat Pump And Air Conditioning Efficiency

Fans of Green Law will recall that the Heating and Air Conditioning industry associations (AHRI, et al) sued the City of Albuquerque to enjoin Albuquerque's green building regulations in 2008.

These industry groups relied upon an argument that the regulations adopted by Albuquerque exceeded the energy efficiency requirements for air conditioners, furnaces, heat pumps and water heaters established at the federal level by the Department of Energy.   

Now, two years later, the Department of Energy is holding a public meeting to discuss updating those standards.  The meeting will be held on May 5, 2010 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Washington DC at the US Department of Energy, Forrestal Building, Room GE-086, 1000 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20585. Written comments are also accepted by email to Brenda.Edwards@ee.doe.gov (include EERE-2008-BT-STD-0006 in the subject line).

In advance of the meeting, the DOE has issued the results of the preliminary analysis and potential energy conservation standard levels the DOE "could consider" for the regulated products, and a preliminary technical support document outlining its efforts. 

What would you do to make your home more energy efficient for $57,000?

A study out of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports:

As of 31 December 2009, according to data available to the Department of Energy, about 9,100 homes had been weatherized out of a planned 593,000

The pricetag for weatherizing 9,100 homes? Over $57,000 per home. 

According to the Home Energy Saver website, sponsored in part by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, the average cost of the top 10 home energy upgrades is just $3,960, a difference of over $46,000 per home. 

Part of me doesn't care. According to Keynesian thinking, just spending stimulus money and fast, it doesn't matter how, is key to stoking the economy.  But there is part of me which envisions the thousands of additional homes which could have been weatherized had the government been more efficient in its spending. 

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.

So?

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.**

The Dangers Of Energy Myopia

My new friend Timothy Hughes over at Virginia Land Use & Construction Law Blog had a nice piece highlighting the flaws in the New York Times analysis of the Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building and US Courthouse (Youngstown, OH) which it used as a primary example of LEED buildings failing to live up to their green claims.  Most interesting in his expose was the fact that the Jones Federal Building did not purport to have energy efficiency as its primary goal:

 A review of the GSA study on its website reveals a few interesting facts that the Times left out of the article:

The GSA study was of 14 first wave green GSA buildings ; 8 were LEED certified, 2 were LEED registered, one used Green Building Challenge, and three were designed with an emphasis on energy efficiency
The Federal Building project did not seek any credits for energy efficiency under EA Credit 1. Similarly, the project did not seek points for additional commissioning, measurement and verification, or green power
While the Federal Building project did not receive the 75 score required to qualify for Energy Star, it did in fact reach a 58 despite the fact the building did not even try for the energy efficiency credits. Every other GSA project contained in the study qualified for Energy Star
 

I perceive this as an example of Energy Myopia, which we have seen in recent green building regulation, particularly the Waxman-Markey Bill.  Section 201 of the Waxman-Markey bill calls for an energy efficient building code, as described in greater detail here. It does not, by definition, address water efficiency, site selection, indoor air quality, or materials usage, the other components which most green building rating systems, particularly LEED, encompass.

Why is this? There are a few factors at play.

First, energy efficiency is important.  With carbon emissions causing global warming, and coal fired power plants producing lots of carbon emissions, reducing energy use is critical.  However, with global warming, many are arguing that water efficiency is at least as paramount.  Moreover, saving water through reduced use literally makes more water available for other uses--it is a direct resource saving, in a way that the impact of building energy savings is not. 

The second reason that energy has been the focus is the same reason people rob banks--because that's where the money is.  As I wrote earlier here, of the entire ARRA allocation of $60 billion for "green" programs, the EPA was allocated exactly $0 for green building, and a measley $7 billion over all.  By contrast, the DOE was allocated $32.7 billion, with $5 billion for weatherization alone.

Third, energy savings is comparatively easy to measure. How do you measure the environmental savings of selecting an urban infill site instead of a suburban greenfield? In vehicle miles saved? Runoff averted? Stream quality? It is easier for proponents of green buildings and critics alike to use energy savings as a proxy for environmental friendliness. 

It is critical for green building regulations to encompass the mulit-faceted environmental impacts of the built environment, and to look holistically at the environmental impacts of so-called "green buildings." 

Later this week...Why Holistic Green Building Regulation Is Hard And What To Do About It.

Show Me The Money--The Green Stimulus By The Numbers

Yesterday I was asked whether enough support was being given to develop the green building industry in the United States.  It led me to wonder where the so-called "green" stimulus package had wound up six months later.  I had criticized the stimulus bill for being less green in reality than in rhetoric here.  The answer to where we are now that the bill is being implemented? A light shade of chartreuse, not the deep forest I would have preferred.  By my calculations, a total of $33.2 million has been paid out for green stimulus programs, and an additional $307 million in public transit dollars, of the allocated $119 BILLION.  That is .28% of the total allocation by my calculations. 

Here are the stats in detail:

 The allocations in the Stimulus Bill for categories which include green:

  • Infrastructure funding has been allocated $111 billion (this includes transit)
  • Energy has been allocated $8 billion. 

[Please compare this to the $288 billion for tax relief].

Energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy--Department of Energy

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

UPDATE: The GSA provided me with specific information on the High Performance Building Program.  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)

BOTTOM LINE: $230,771

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: $307 million in public transit funding outlaid as of 7/17/09.  

 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 Bottom Line $30 million. 

So what do all these numbers mean? 

I think, as I did when the ultimate stimulus bill was passed that the overall amount is not enough.  What we know now is that the money is being spent slower than anticipated.  If the concept was to stimulate the economy in 2009, $33.2m probably is insufficient.  The entire practice of architecture is dying on the vine, without help there will be few innovators left to help green the next building wave.  Something needs to be done to facilitate getting the green stimulus dollars to those projects that need them--I have heard of LEED projects which are dying because they cannot access private funds--sooner rather than later.

How the Stimulus Bill Shortchanged The EPA, And What It Means For Green Building

I have written before about the conflict between local and federal regulation of green building.  But the issue of jurisdiction is not restricted to intergovernmental conflict.  At the federal level,  resources for green building are being largely handled by the Department of Energy, and not by the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The DOE runs the Energy Star program, for example.  In its page on "buildings" the DOE states:

The Department of Energy, through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Building Technologies Program works closely with the building industry and manufacturers to conduct research and development on technologies and practices for energy efficiency. The Department also promotes energy and money-saving opportunities to builders and consumers and works with state and local regulatory groups to improve building codes and appliance standards.

As you might expect, the DOE information is all about energy efficiency.  By contrast, the EPA has an informative page about green buildings, including information on water efficiency, sustainable communities, indoor air quality, waste reduction, toxics reduction and other considerations.  In short, the EPA takes into consideration the multi-faceted ways in which buildings impact the environment. 

Why should you care? On the EPA page regarding funding for green building projects it states:

EPA does not currently provide funding to support green building projects.

In the stimulus bill, which, you recall had $60 billion for "green" programs, the EPA was allocated exactly $0 for green building, and a measley $7 billion over all.  Don't believe me? Look at the EPA's own assessment of the stimulus money.  By contrast, the DOE was allocated $32.7 billion, with $5 billion for weatherization alone. 

The government agency charged with protecting the environment was essentially shut out of the "green" stimulus bill, and as a result, I wonder whether the overall environmental impact of buildings will be promoted effectively through research, incentives and other mechanisms.