November 29, 2010

A Federal Block Grant for Energy Efficiency in Pinellas County

James Stevenson, Extension Specialist, Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project, Pinellas County Extension

In 2009 Pinellas County Government received a block grant from the US Department of Energy. A block grant is a “gift” of money that follows an allocation formula, and is made available to local governments based on the population of the area. This grant, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant or EECBG has been distributed nationally, with the largest amount of funding going directly to US cities and counties.

Pinellas County received about $3.5 million in 2009. Other municipalities in the county received their own funds, including Clearwater ($1 million), Dunedin ($150,000), Largo ($700,000), Pinellas Park ($200,000), and St. Petersburg ($2.5 million).

This money was given to local governments to get major energy-saving projects off the ground. But the clock is ticking, and the money must be spent on these projects before the end of 2012. Pinellas County Government departments have seven projects in the works thanks to these funds. These projects include:

• A comprehensive energy audit for government buildings and practices,

• More efficient air-cooling systems for government buildings,

• Solar-powered flashing lights at county schools,

• Synchronization of traffic signals to reduce idling time on the roads

• Modification of the County’s Land Development Code to include energy efficiency measures

• Energy conservation retrofits for single-family homes, some of which were purchased through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds

• A community energy program delivered to citizens via Pinellas County Extension outreach; the Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project.
Our project includes several facets; all of which work together to provide the latest research-based information on energy efficiency to the public. Earlier this year the grant funds were received by the County and worked into this year’s budget. Then we “went-out-to-bid” for a supplier who could provide us with energy-saving products that we would then give to the public. By September we were ready to have our first official Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project class here at Extension. As of this writing, we have had 14 classes with an additional 30 classes scheduled before the end of June, 2011.

Classes are an hour long and each participant receives a comprehensive energy efficiency kit, valued at $200. During the class, we examine how energy is used in the home, how it is wasted, and how to reduce energy consumption while still enjoying the same quality of life. Participants receive the kit if they agree to share some information on energy conserving habits and home improvements they may have made after attending the class.

By collecting this data, we can make some assumptions on overall, county-wide residential energy conservation. We will then provide this data to the University and the Federal Government. By giving away CFL light bulbs and energy conservation kits, we can measure the amount of kilowatts that have been conserved. To date we have distributed over 8000 CFLs alone. This translates to a savings of 40,000 kWh each year the bulbs are in use and over 4 MILLION kWh over the lifetime of these long-lasting bulbs. In addition, this savings reflects a reduction of the greenhouse gas, C02, by 3000 tons!

Our goal is to distribute 60,000 CFLs in addition to information on overall energy efficiency. Extension believes that by providing people with the facts, and a little incentive we can realize a significant county-wide energy conservation strategy. Everybody wins!

US Department of Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program

EnergyStar® CFL Savings Calculator

Pinellas County Extension’s Energy Efficiency Project

UF’s Easy Steps to Improving Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

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