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Energy spending could be engine for job growth

"Energy spending could be engine for job growthVia Washington Business JournalIf energy is one of the main pillars of the legislative monument known as
the stimulus bill, think of it as the most newly constructed one. It may
seem a small amount — its $43 billion allotment is just 5 percent of the$787 billion pot — but it has been cited as one of the major job engines
for clean, green and high-paying jobs for the country going forward. And
yet, because the emphasis on energy has been such a recent phenomenon,
local counties and cities are hurriedly scribbling up spending plans and
molding brand-new fundable energy-efficiency, green building and
alternative-energy activities into being even as you read these words.Most agree the energy dollars will drift down to the business community,
from progressive architects to traditional engineers, from solar panel
contractors to heating-and-cooling old-timers, from energy auditors to
lighting installers, though no one can say who gets what yet. Still, one
conundrum remains: Once the millions of dollars have been signed away by
the stimulus package's September 2010 deadline, what will local governments
have left to sustain those novel energy activities? Unfortunately, until
jurisdictions finish the sprint to June, when they must submit spending
plans to the feds, the questions outnumber the answers.WeatherizationDollar amount:$5 billionDoling the money: The Department of Energy awarded dollars to the states,
which will pass money through to local jurisdictions.Goal: To increase the energy efficiency of dwellings owned or occupied by
low-income people, reduce their total residential expenditures and improve
their health and safety. According to DOE, this assistance program will
allow an average investment of up to $6,500 per home in energy-efficiency
upgrades and will be available for families making up to 200 percent of the
federal poverty level — or about $44,000 a year for a family of four. The
department is aiming for a 32 percent average drop in energy bills,
equaling hundreds of dollars a year, for those low-income families.In the end, weatherization is a fancy word for things that have made a
homeowner's to-do list for years: sealing gaps around doors, windows and
pipes, and replacing those doors and windows with ones that are more energy
efficient; installing better drains and weatherproof membranes; improving
ventilation and insulation; installing energy-efficient heating and cooling
systems and repairing inefficient boilers, furnaces, water heaters and
thermostats. The process basically gives inefficient houses a whole-body
physical, plugging holes that let cold or hot air escape and cause bills to
rise.The directory of companies, from franchises to one-person shops, that could
benefit from these dollars on a house-by-house basis is too long to list.
The include neighborhood plumbers, heating and air conditioning repair
people and window peddlers.Green buildingDollar amount: $5.5 billionDoling the money: General Services AdministrationGoal: To make federal buildings more energy efficient.After much hush-hush, the Washington Business Journal learned in late March
that this area is slated to get nearly a quarter of the funding in this
category, almost all in the nation's capital where most of the country's
federal buildings lie.D.C. will receive $662 million for energy-efficiency modernization of six
federal buildings, $450 million for a new headquarters complex for the
Department of Homeland Security at the St. Elizabeths Hospital campus in
Southeast and $93 million for smaller improvements on 16 other federal
buildings, totaling $1.2 billion for the city. Maryland will modernize two
buildings with its $25 million allotment and Virginia, six buildings with
its $66 million chunk.State energy programDollar amount: $3.1 billionDoling the money: Department of EnergyGoal: This will translate into consumer rebates for home energy audits and