The government just handed out $452 million for energy efficiency. Can you get a cut?

The Federal Government is starting to hand out money to make the country more energy effiicient. But will they be spending these funds effectively?

The $452 million in cash incentives that the government handed out today were announced by Vice-President Joe Biden as part of his Earth Day activities.  I noticed a lot of coverage of this announcement from the media, including the technical press, so I decided to take a look at what, if anything, this money would do for the datacenter world. The full details of the payments for the Retrofit Ramp-Up are available in the document from the Department of Energy, and I have to say, after reading the document, I'm wondering if the government people responsible for giving out this money actually read these project summaries.

I'll start with the one project listed of which I actually approve; $40 million in funding for the NY Sate Energy Research and Development Authority.  As I mentioned a few weeks back, they really do put their money into projects that have a direct impact on the energy efficiency of major energy consumers.  I am much less enthusiastic about every other project included in this official document.

$25 million to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to "establish a set of comprehensive initiatives" certainly sounds like a boondoggle, and the Seattle Neighborhood Weatherizing Every Building Initiative to Power Change group seems to think that the phrase "fostering a clean energy economy that relies on energy efficiency as a primary source of power" makes sense.  Well, maybe with their $20 million they can hire an electrical engineer who will explain to them the difference between generation and consumption of power. Read the linked document for yourself to get a feel for where the money is going.

This half-billion dollars in spending is coming from the $80 billion dollars earmarked for a clean energy economy in the Recovery Act. Hopefully, more future funding will be directed at programs like the one in New York and less in low-return programs pork-barreled by politicians to their local favored non-profit group. Datacenters energy consumption could easily hit 5% of the total power generated in the United States by 2015, so money spent by the government on lowering that power consumption growth rate is likely to have a more noticeable effect than funding which helps a non-profit group weatherize part of the local community, as politically incorrect as that sounds.  

Granted a large part of the driving motivation for the funding choices is that businesses and local governments will add to the investment this funding is supposed to jumpstart, with the government projecting an investment of $2.8 billion from these other sources. But when the economy is tight, governmental projections like this are rarely accurate.