U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Wednesday in Philadelphia that she expects money from the recently passed $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal to flow quickly to ready-to-go, clean energy projects such as those already underway at a training program for youth in Kensington.
She also broadly outlined how the money could help Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Granholm spoke while on a tour of the nonprofit Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) on West Clearfield Street in Kensington. There, Jackie Robinson, the facility’s head trainer, explained how high school and adult students from low-income neighborhoods are taught to weatherize homes and install solar. They earn certifications that allow them to pursue jobs or post-secondary education.
Robinson demonstrated how students check air pressure in homes to detect leaks, install insulation, look for window leaks, check furnaces and water heaters for efficiency, install low-flow toilets and showerheads, and other methods of reducing energy use.
Afterward, Granholm cited the ECA as an example of groups or projects that are poised to obtain money quickly under the bill. However, Granholm said it is still undecided how much each state will get and where that money will go.
“First of all, there is an increase in weatherization money — $3.5 billion dollars worth, which is a significant, significant investment,” Granholm said. “Obviously, the weatherization program here will definitely benefit from that.”
Among the other noteworthy parts of the bill she cited:
$550 million for energy efficiency and conservation block grants;
$250 million for a new energy efficiency revolving loan fund;
$10 million to build training centers;
$40 million for energy auditor training; and
$10 million for skills training that leads to certifications.
“So it’s exactly up ECA’s alley,” Granholm said.
The bill also includes $7.5 billion to build out a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers. New Jersey and Pennsylvania have already started EV charging network programs. Pennsylvania is in the process of drafting rules that would align it with California’s mandate to auto manufacturers to ensure a certain percentage of vehicles are electric.
Granholm noted the deal includes $65 billion to modernize the electric grid to handle clean energy. That would help New Jersey, she said, in its push to use offshore wind as a big part of the Murphy administration plan to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050.
Granholm said Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware would also benefit from a “significant” amount of money under the Biden administration’s Build Back Better Act. That plan is separate from the infrastructure bill and has a heavy focus on social initiatives, such as universal preschool and child care.
Build Back Better includes $320 billion in tax credits for utility-scale clean energy initiatives, residential clean energy programs, transmission, storage, and manufacturing. And it contains hundreds of billions more for incentives that address extreme weather, and enhance solar, battery, and other renewable energy technology.
“In Build Back Better, there’s going to be significant amount for electrification of homes, for rebates, for appliances that would electrify to be able to again reduce carbon emissions,” Granholm said.
Much of the money can be plugged into existing formulas used to fund programs, she said. In other cases, however, states will be competing for money. How much, depends on the success the Build Back Better Act has in getting through a Congress divided not along party lines, but also between moderates and progressives in the Democratic party.
“The elements of the infrastructure bill alone will put so many people to work,” Granholm added.
Thomas Flaherty, who helps prepare grants at ECA, said hundreds of students have gone through the nonprofit’s program. They weatherized 500 homes in Philadelphia annually, and another 200 in Delaware. They work with the Philadelphia Energy Authority’s Solarize Philly program to install panels on residential homes, and replace up to 1,000 residential heaters a year.
The infrastructure bill gives him hope because much of the money the group uses for weatherization comes through federal funding.
“I saw a whole lot of funding in there ..., “ Flaherty said for programs ECA is already well involved with. “I do not know how much money we would expect to see from this bill filtering into our area. But I’m delighted to find out.”