Earlier this month, the Department of Energy announced $155 million worth of grants to clean energy projects — specifically targeted to CHP, waste heat recovery, and district energy. This was done as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), and therefore had a very specific focus not just on clean energy, but also on so-called “shovel-ready” projects that would quickly stimulate further private sector investment and job creation. According to the DOE press release, those $155 million federal dollars will bring forth an additional $634 million of private capital and save 14 trillion Btus to boot.

All good.

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But there’s an even better backstory. The $155 million of awards was selected from $9 billion of qualifying projects. (Applications were even higher.) The $155 million limit wasn’t imposed by the size of the opportunity to reduce energy and create jobs, but simply by the size of the program. 

Budgets are limited, and it’s to DOE/ARRA’s great credit that they got this $155 million deployed. But there is a larger lesson here for clean energy broadly. It is a massive opportunity to create jobs, lower energy use, and turn the economy around. Those projects didn’t go away by virtue of not getting funding — but they didn’t get built either. Meanwhile, we haven’t exactly solved our energy, environmental, or economic dilemmas yet. There’s an opportunity there.

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