Stimulus Brings Schools New Funds for Energy Efficiency

April 09, 2009

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

When the stimulus package passed, one of the highlights was a tremendous increase in education funding. Additionally, there were other increases in energy efficiency investments. Advocates across the country, including HSC, were excited for the opportunity for schools to start modernization projects that would bring them into the next generation of healthy and high-performing schools. And it looks like this is happening.

MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. – The candy machine at Henry Sibley High School knows when students roam the halls and automatically powers down when they've gone home. The basketball court still shines, but under the glow of fluorescent tubes that suck up a fraction of the juice the old lights used.

Thanks to such measures, energy costs across the school district in this Twin Cities suburb already are down by nearly a third. Officials want to trim the expenses even more, but that will require investment in upgrades.

The federal economic stimulus dollars could be just what they need…

“The money we spend on electric, water, gas and oil — those dollars compete with dollars for textbooks and teachers,” said Jay Haugen, superintendent of the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan district.

The stimulus package contains more than $6 billion for energy-efficient improvements for local governments, more than $10 billion for schools to make local funding decisions which could be used for energy efficiency, and an additional $22 billion zero-interest bond program for school construction. And this seems to be just part of the available funding.

The time is right for schools to start investing in energy efficiency. The confluence of federal funding, concerns about rising energy costs, and the availability of information and technology to make healthy and energy-efficient schools makes today the right time to look into these long-term energy solutions.

What can you do? Look into funding opportunities for your state. Look at the State Fiscal Stabilization Funds available for your state [PDF] and ask your state leaders (particularly your governor's office) to invest portions of this money into energy-efficiency programs. Contact your municipality and your state department of economic development to find out about energy-efficient programs that are being funded. Schools have a great opportunity to tap into these programs.

There have never been more financial resources to help schools do the right thing. And remember, energy saved today means teachers saved tomorrow.