Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) called on the U.S. Department of Energy to quickly release funding for energy programs alongside three other senators in a letter on Thursday.
The letter follows the U.S. Department of Energy’s announcement of $18.6 million in funding to expand the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps lower energy costs for customers.
“Weatherization is a critically important tool to partner with Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding to help families avoid financial hardship caused by increased energy costs,” the letter says.
Shaheen's request for quick dispersal of the funds comes as Granite Staters face the prospect of high energy bills this winter, and the Public Utilities Commission’s recent decision on energy efficiency has community action agencies putting some of their future projects for lower-income households on hold.
Shaheen weighed in on the Public Utilities Commission’s order in the Concord Monitor, calling it “unwarranted and ill-conceived.” Shaheen said she has experienced bipartisan consensus around energy efficiency throughout her work with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on energy efficiency legislation and provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided $3.5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program, and $6 billion for energy efficiency programs in general, according to Shaheen.
Gabriel Leonard, director of energy conservation at Southwestern Community Services, said Weatherization Assistance Program funding is a main funding source of weatherization projects. But challenges in the labor sector can make it difficult to get the funding into homes.
“Our funding sources basically hold us to a gold standard when it comes to this, which means quality control inspectors and auditors have to go through extensive training, and they’re very, very difficult to come by,” he said.
In the letter to the Department of Energy, Shaheen, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Sen. Susan Collins R-Maine, and Sen. Christopher Coons. D-CT, encouraged the department to work with states to provide flexibility in getting the weatherization work moving.
They also advocated for quick dispersal of funding for the State Energy Program, which provides technical assistance to states for some energy projects. In the letter, the senators note that the State Energy Program money could be used to plan out other projects funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Shaheen’s letter also says energy efficiency is a way to create jobs. “With the investments from the bipartisan infrastructure law, jobs in energy efficiency and other parts of the energy sector are primed for growth,” the letter says.
The Department of Energy says they plan to release the funding Sen. Shaheen called for in the letter “as expeditiously as practicable,” according to a written statement from the Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs Office.
States will need to submit applications for the money, as with all financial assistance, and the Department of Energy said they are currently working on developing application documents.