The Department of Energy and other agencies responsible for allocating stimulus funds for clean energy have been criticized in recent weeks for spending the funds too slowly. Much has been made of the fact that only about a third of the $90 billion set aside for clean energy investments has been spent.
In response, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last week released a report assessing program implementation at the Department of Energy.
The Recovery Act provided the Department of Energy (DOE) more than $43.2 billion, including $36.7 billion for projects and activities and $6.5 billion in borrowing authority, in areas such as energy efficiency and renewable energy, nuclear waste clean-up, and electric grid modernization.
As of February 28, 2010, DOE reported it had obligated $25.7 billion (70%) and reported expenditures of $2.5 billion (7%) of the $36.7 billion it received under the Recovery Act for projects and activities. For context, as of December 31, 2009, DOE reported that it had obligated $23.2 billion (54%) and reported expenditures of $1.8 billion (4%).
The percentage of Recovery Act funds obligated varied widely across DOE program offices and ranged from a high of 98% in the Energy Information Administration to a low of 1% for the Loan Guarantee Program Office. None of DOE's program offices reported expenditures of more than a third of their Recovery Act funds as of February 28, 2010.
Officials from DOE and states that received Recovery Act funding from DOE cited certain federal requirements that had affected their ability to implement some Recovery Act projects. For example, officials reported that Davis-Bacon requirements for prevailing wages had affected the start of projects in the Weatherization Assistance Program, because the program had previously been exempt from such requirements.
The need for environmental assessments or environmental impact statements are also slowing implementation of numerous programs, and in Michigan 90% of the homes scheduled to be weatherized under the Weatherization Assistance Program first need a historic review. Other factors slowing the implementation include the newness of programs, staff capacity and matching funds requirements.
The full GAO assessment is available at the link below.