Over the next 18 months, Arizona must use or lose $499 million inU.S. Department of Energy stimulus funds. Much of that money remainsunspent, stalled amid grant applications and bid proposals, reports the Arizona Daily Sun.
But state officials, like Robin Boudreau of the Arizona EnergyOffice, are confident energy improvements are coming soon. Boudreau says October and November of this year will be a busy time for his office,which has a $9.6 million grant to spend helping rural Arizonacommunities save money on utility bills with energy-efficiencyimprovements and renewable energy projects.
Overall, Arizona has 81 energy-related projects covered under the$499 million stimulus package. That means job creation for a state thathas nearly 300,000 fewer jobs than it did at the beginning of therecession in 2007. The projects, which range from solar panelinstallation and the weatherization of homes and businesses statewide,to enhancing the power grid of the Navajo Reservation, will help bringback some, but not all, of those jobs.
Sustaining new jobs once the projects are complete will be difficult. But the state is already working on ways to combat a decline. Officials in Phoenix, for example, are already reaching out to banks andrequesting loans for future weatherization projects. They are alsomaking a directory system that people can find utility and federalprograms best suited to their needs.
Some projects are already underway. While other organizations, likethe Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, have yet to spend a dime. Whetheror not all of the $499 million is used by deadlines remains to be seen.
As Boudreau told the Arizona Daily Sun, the projects represent morethan an outflow of government money. “This is not about spending money,” Boudreau said. “This is about investing in communities.”