Still not very stimulating, but that likely will come in bureaucratic time

Warren B. Causey | Dec 05, 2009

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As most people are well aware, it’s very hard to get any reliable, up-to-date information out of Washington these days about spending stimulus money, jobs, etc., etc.  Thus, the utility industry is pretty much left wondering about ARRA money.  While the DOE announced awards for Smart Grid funding last month, very little of the money, if any, has yet reached utilities.

 

According to a press release by a Republican member of the House Committee on Appropriations, only 12 percent of stimulus funds had left the U.S. Treasury at the beginning of November.  That is from a “stimulus” package approved by Congress last February.

 

A check with some utility CIOs revealed that there probably hasn’t been much progress made since the end of September, at least on Smart Grid funding.  CIOs tell us that they still are in contract negotiations with the Department of Energy.  However, they also indicate that the DEO, to this point, is proving cooperative in trying to work out contract details, and that they expect some of the Smart Grid money to start flowing after the first of the year.  We picked up this anecdotal information from CIOs:

 

  • One of the contract sticking points at several utilities is the question of who will own the systems (such as AMI meters) installed with stimulus money.  Apparently no one yet has that answer.
  • The issue of taxes is another concern.  Do utilities have to pay taxes on ARRA funds they receive?  If so at what rate, etc., etc.  If utilities must pay taxes on these funds, there obviously will be a much smaller “stimulus” for smart grid.  Again, no one we spoke with has any answers for that, either.
  • Apparently the funds will be distributed monthly—in other words, utilities can bill for monies expended on a monthly basis, but the details of that also remain to be worked out.

 

As might be expected, there are a lot of utility lawyers and accountants talking to a lot of DOE officials right now.  It will likely be some weeks, possibly longer, before all these details are worked out with all the grantees.  That means the stimulus money may not be actually stimulating anything until nearly a year after the law was passed.  No one ever claimed letting the government do anything was the most efficient way to get it done.

 

For what it’s worth, here is the Republican list of monies that have been expended from the overall $700 billion-plus stimulus package.  Bear in mind these numbers are from the end of September, beginning of November, and may have changed appreciably.  But from what utility folks tell us, they haven’t changed much for Smart Grid:

 

The list below contains examples of the amounts that have been out-layed (left the Federal Treasury) for various “stimulus” programs:

  • $153 million out of $4.1 billion (2%) for expanded access to broadband internet
  • $3 million of $5.9 billion (0.0001 %) for new Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs
  • No funds out of $4.5 billion (0%) for “Smart Grid”
  • No funds out of $2.3 billion (0%) for alternative vehicle fuel and battery grants
  • $2 million of the $4 billion (0.001%) for the Energy Innovative Technology Loan Program
  • $174 million out of $5 billion (3%) for Weatherization Assistance
  • $235 million out of $6.4 billion (4%) for EPA water and wastewater grants
  • No funds out of $2.9 billion (0%) for Comparative Effectiveness research and Health IT funded as a precursor for Health Care reform
  • $2 million out of $750 million (2%) for the “Green Jobs” training program
  • $38 million out of $500 million (8%) for the Women, Infants and Children program
  • $23 million out of $1 billion (2%) for the Decennial Census
  • No funds out of $8 billion (0%) for High Speed Rail
  • No funds out of $1 billion (0%) for COPS hiring grants
  • $27 million out of $3 billion (0.01%) for National Science Foundation research grants and facilities construction

*Analysis is based on official data from U.S. Treasury reports as of September 30, 2009, and compiled by the Appropriations Committee Republican staff.

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