The Better Buildings Neighborhood Program was first announced by Vice President Biden as "Retrofit Ramp-Up" on April 21, 2010. The program presented initial awards of $452 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) funding to 25 state and local governments to "ramp-up" energy efficiency building retrofits. The Better Buildings Neighborhood Program has since distributed a total of $508 million to support hundreds of communities served by 41 different programs. Funding of $1.4 million to $40 million per program was awarded through the competitive portions of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program ($482 million in Recovery Act funds) and the State Energy Program ($26 million).
Background: ARRA and Recovery Through Retrofit
The Recovery Act allocated approximately $80 billion to projects related to energy and the environment, with much of this money targeted toward improving energy efficiency in homes and buildings. In addition to investments in building energy efficiency, Recovery Act funds are being used to support investments in smart grid and transmission, renewable and alternative energy, clean vehicles, and mass transit.
To ensure that the energy efficiency market will thrive long after the Recovery Act money is fully spent, on May 26, 2009, Vice President Biden charged the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) with developing a proposal for federal action that will grow green job opportunities and boost energy savings by upgrading homes to be more energy efficient. In October 2009, the Vice President's Middle Class Task Force released its proposal in the report "Recovery Through Retrofit." This report identified market and non-market barriers that have prevented the home energy upgrade market from achieving national-scale success, including:
- Access to Information: Consumers do not have access to straightforward and reliable information that they need to make informed decisions about home energy upgrades.
- Access to Financing: Homeowners face high upfront costs for home energy upgrades that often go beyond their average budget. Some homeowners are concerned that they will be unable to recoup the value of their investment should they choose to sell their homes.
- Access to Skilled Workers: A shortage of skilled workers and green entrepreneurs is preventing the expansion of efficiency upgrades on a national scale.
To help address and test solutions to these barriers, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) created the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program in concert with other efforts across the federal government.
DOE Funding Opportunity Announcements and Awards
The Better Buildings Neighborhood Program is implementing energy efficiency with speed and to scale in order to achieve significant results. Explore the interactive timeline below. Use your mouse to view progress from 2009 to the present, and click on program milestones to learn more about our history.
DOE issued two separate funding opportunity announcements to support Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners. In October 2009, DOE issued the first competitive funding opportunity announcement (FOA), "Retrofit Ramp-up and General Innovation Fund Programs," using EECBG funds to provide grants to state and local governments for the purpose of testing potential energy upgrade business models and improving building energy efficiency across the country. The FOA closed in December 2009. DOE received 130 applications, requesting a total of $3.76 billion. In June and August 2010, DOE awarded $482 million to 34 grant recipients whose projects represent a diverse portfolio of energy upgrade approaches. In April 2010, DOE issued a second competitive FOA under the State Energy Program (SEP) for awards focused on "Strengthening Building Retrofit Markets." In November 2010, DOE awarded $26 million to seven SEP award recipients.
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program funding recipients are now using the $508 million in competitive EECBG and SEP grant funding to leverage an estimated $1 to $3 billion from other sources to enable large-scale, self-sustaining energy efficiency upgrade and improvement programs for residential, commercial, industrial, and public buildings.