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Stimulating Energy Efficiency And Lower Energy Bills For Texans


Children sometimes need a little motivation to be convinced to do what they’re supposed to do. This motivation can take many forms, but the most effective ways teach the child beneficial ways to live, demonstrating the material benefits of proper conduct. Adults can also, on occasion, require a little nudging to do the thing that is right in the long run. (This can be difficult, especially when one is asked to delay gratification!) The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law by Congress to stimulate our economy in a number of ways. (Yes, that’s the Stimulus Bill you’ve heard a lot about.) Texas is a big state, and a significant percentage of those dollars will be used to help the state’s energy consumers save money and reduce their use of the juice.

Some of the biggest energy drains in your home are your large appliances. These include refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, dishwashers and more. These appliances generally do their jobs very well and can last for a long time, even decades. The down side to this is that older machines are often less efficient than their newer counterparts. When a homeowner purchases a new, say, water heater, their electric bill may decrease. These savings travel further up the chain, preventing the burning of fossil fuels that would have otherwise been used to operate the water heater. Some stimulus money is being used to provide rebates to consumers when they upgrade specific household appliances. In an article written for the San Antonio Express-News, Vicki Vaughan compares this idea to 2009’s “Cash For Clunkers” program, in which the government offered rebates to owners of gas-guzzling cars as an incentive to purchase more efficient ones.

Tom Fowler, reporter for the Houston Chronicle, points out that Lone Star Staters will benefit more than most Americans as a result of the money allocated by the stimulus. The bill dedicated $300 million to encourage Americans to update their appliances. Of that, $23.3 million was awarded for use by Texans. The program was approved for an April 2010 rollout, and the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) decided upon different rebate amounts for different appliances. Room air conditioners are eligible for a $45 rebate, for example, while water heaters are eligible for a rebate of $255 to $640, depending upon the efficiency of the specific model. Another important goal of the surplus spending was to encourage the recycling of those appliances to be replaced. The SECO, as a result, set aside $75 extra dollars as a bonus for consumers who submit their old washers, refrigerators and more to be recycled.

Individual energy consumers are not the only ones to benefit from the 2009 Stimulus Bill. The Austin Statesman reported that the Department of Energy assigned $10.4 million in these funds to benefit the capital city’s Pecan Street Project, an endeavor dedicated to developing more advanced smart electrical grids. Projects such as these will help Texas maintain their lead in clean energy development and in green jobs.

Another SECO project made possible by the stimulus is the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program. Congress made $3.2 billion available nationwide for grants to be awarded on the local level. SECO has been allocated $45.6 million to be distributed to Texas cities with populations under 35,000 or counties with populations under 200,000. These grants will help Texas communities upgrade the technology used to power municipal buildings and change traffic signals and street lights to more efficient systems, among other uses.

While it may not be the most glamorous use of stimulus funds, the bill set aside $2.4 million for state and local governments to enhance “energy assurance planning.” In other words, those in charge of maintaining and improving Texas’ energy grid were granted the money necessary to develop the systems to keep the lights on. (These same systems, of course, keep factories humming, which preserves the jobs of hardworking people.)

They say you have to spend money in order to make money, and the Stimulus Bill is a good example of that idea. It’s difficult to get anything accomplished in an industry without the proper infrastructure, and these federal dollars will increase Texas’ ability to compete in the world’s increasingly green economy. Sure, the recession that depressed business and resulted in several burst bubbles will be remembered for its lasting effects on our lives. Thanks to the fact that the stimulus funds are being used to enhance energy efficiency, the positives could endure for decades to come.