California Applies for Energy Funds, Breaks Ground on I-80 Project

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on May 5 announced that California is the first state in the nation to submit the application for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) State Energy Program (SEP) funding.

The California Energy Commission, the agency responsible for administering the $226 million in authorized ARRA funding, completed the state's paperwork for the SEP to ensure that California can move forward in working with stakeholders to develop program guidelines.

"We are meeting and exceeding federal deadlines every day—and Californians can rest assured that the state is doing everything in its power to put Recovery Act funding to work to create jobs," said Schwarzenegger.

California's SEP application focuses on creating and retaining jobs, achieving lasting and measurable energy benefits that follow the state's energy and environmental mandates, and policy goals of increasing energy efficiency, renewable energy, and bioenergy as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The program is designed to leverage additional federal, state, local and private financing and expend money efficiently, with accountability and minimal administrative burden.

The bulk of the SEP funding ($195.8 million) will be aimed at combining grants, contracts, and loans to fund activities that concentrate on clean energy systems and energy efficiency measures and upgrades for residential and non-residential structures, including improvements such as insulation, duct sealing, heating and cooling, and water heating systems. The Energy Commission estimates that retrofitting California's aged and inefficient residential and non-residential structures could save the state's consumers 2.7 billion Btu annually and create over 2,100 jobs. The proposal to the Department of Energy (DOE) also included concepts that integrated efforts between low-income home energy efficiency, weatherization, utility incentives, government incentive and ARRA funds.

The Energy Commission is investing $15 million to build a green workforce to meet renewable and alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technology needs. It will expand on this plan and leverage $20 million in ARRA funds to create a more extensive green workforce on energy efficiency and clean energy sources, including wind and solar energy.

The federal DOE approval of California's SEP application is expected sometime between July and August. During that time, the Energy Commission will collaborate with stakeholders and the public to develop the program design and guidelines to ensure that high priority and preferences are given to projects that meet the intent and goals of the SEP. The Energy Commission anticipates the first round of SEP funding could be awarded as early as September.

Late last month, Schwarzenegger announced the first construction groundbreaking—a project to improve the pavement on a 50-year-old section of Interstate 80 in the Bay Area's Fairfield between State Route 12 and Air Base Parkway.

Funded fully by ARRA funds and coming in nearly 40 percent under original cost estimates, this project was the first ARRA project bid to be opened, awarded and started in construction in California.

Expected to be completed by the end of this year, the $13.5-million project will resurface and repair the freeway. The winning bid from contractor Top Grade Construction of Livermore was the lowest bid submitted at nearly 40 percent below the California Department of Transportation's (Caltrans) cost estimate. Savings from this project have been directed to advance other highway projects.

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