The U.S. Department of Energy said Monday it will send $32.9 million in federal stimulus money to Georgia to help the state make its buildings more efficient.
The money represents nearly half of the $82 million the state expects to receive for the program. It is on top of a smaller slice the DOE sent to cover administrative costs; the remainder will come after Georgia meets stringent requirements to track every dollar spent and every job created with the new funds.
"We have to make sure we are using the money wisely," said Phil Foil, the agency's executive director. "We have to make sure we're getting the money out quickly, but we want to walk the line on how we spend it."
The program will be run by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, which typically operates on a budget of about $1 million a year. The money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will boost that budget by more than 8,000 percent.
The largest chunk —- $65 million —- will start a program to make state government buildings more energy efficient.
While the environmental facilities authority previously has helped state agencies take steps to lower their utility bills, this is the first time Georgia will have money to use as an incentive to do things such as seal leaky ducts and add fluorescent lighting, said Richard Ross, manager of the State Energy Program.
State agencies have to apply for the money, said David Gipson, energy resources director for the authority.
After the governor's office selects the projects, work can begin in August, Gipson said.
"That's the fastest track we've been on," he said.
As with most state agencies that have received federal stimulus money, the authority is waiting on the federal government for details on how it is to account for jobs created or saved, officials said Monday.
The agency will hire temporary workers to help keep track of the money, but most of the funds will be spent on construction workers, energy auditors and others to help retrofit buildings, Gipson said.
In terms of downstream economic impacts, Ross, who heads the energy program, said $7 in energy costs are saved for every $1 spent.
The money is only a sliver of the total $3.1 billion the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is setting aside for state energy programs, which will include renewable energy projects such as solar, wind and biomass.
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