This week in Washington, DC, the House Education and Labor Committee will consider HR 2187 the 21st Century Green High Performing Public Schools Facilities Act. The legislation is co-sponsored by Oregon’s David Wu and would allocate more than $6 billion for fiscal 2010 to support energy efficiencies in local schools.
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HR 2187 would add even more financial resources for local communities to begin making retrofits. Along with programs like the Clean Energy Fund in Portland these federal dollars could create jobs, save money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And it might add momentum to Representative Dunshee’s legislation in Washington to use public debt to fund retrofits and pay back the loan using savings—especially if the federal funds can be used for some upfront costs.
All of this sounds terrific. But something is bothering me about all this money. How will it be distributed and how will we know whether it has actually created jobs, energy savings, and reductions to climate-changing emissions? The bill does allow 1 percent of any funds allocated to a state to be spent on developing an inventory of schools, collecting baseline information about schools’ energy use and possible savings.
But shouldn’t this be the first thing done? I think the inventory and audits should be mandated before the money starts to flow. This kind of building energy inventory in each state would go a long way toward putting federal and local money (and financing) to work to make improvements that would provide the maximum return on investment and the biggest greenhouse gas reductions.
But right now, we still don’t know how and where to best invest our resources to ensure the biggest impacts.