The Department of Energy has pledged about one-tenth of its share of stimulus dollars so far, and it wants to get half of it out the door by Labor Day.
That ads up to a funding pace of about $1.2 billion a week – all of it meant to fund projects that both employ lots of people and deliver returns to the American taxpayer, while putting a "down payment on the nation's energy and environmental future."
That's according to Matt Rogers, the special assistant to Energy Secretary Stephen Chu who's in charge of vetting applications for energy-related stimulus act funding.
"We're trying to make sure we have an architecture than can withstand the test of time," Rogers told an audience at a stimulus workshop hosted by the California Clean Energy Fundin San Francisco on Monday (see Clean Energy Angel Fund Makes First Investments).
The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contains about $90 billion in energy-related funding, including $34 billion in stimulus spending, $44 billion in loan guarantees and $12 billion or so in direct government purchases, including electric vehicles. Loan guarantees require 20 percent matching funds, and grants require 50 percent matching funds.
So far the Department of Energy has given out one loan guarantee to thin-film solar panel maker Solyndra, which is seeking to raise $535 million to build a factory (see Solyndra Secures $535M in Federal Loan Guarantees).
Other awards so far have gone to federal energy research ($100 million), wind power ($93 million), and the creation of a $400 million advanced research program for energy (see Green Light posts here and here).
Of course, there are a lot more groups seeking funding than there is money to give out, Rogers noted. And that means that "There are a whole set of things that I just can't fund," he said.
That includes lots of technologies still in development phase, which can't promise job creation within the two to three years the stimulus package is aiming for, he said.
If audience member comments are any measure, there are a lot of people worried smaller companies will also be missing out – a fear that Rogers tried to allay.
"I am trying to make the department accessible to small businesses," he said. One way to handle that might be to gather multiple companies together to pitch a project, though those companies will have to weigh the costs of doing so against the potential returns, he noted.
Richard Moorer, senior technical advisor for DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energyoffice, noted that applications that combine public and private partners are likely to meet with more success.
It's also important to note that the rules for how funds will be disbursed are still being developed, said Dan Reicher, director of climate change and energy initiatives for Google.org.
One example could be the $4.5 billion set aside for smart grid stimulus, he said. Initial guidelines for how that money will be disbursed included a $20 million cap on grants for commercial-scale smart grid projects, which could exclude many larger-scale projects, including smart meter deployments by major utilities, he said (see Smart Grid Stimulus: What to Expect).
It's something that Google, along with some utilities, have asked DOE to change (seeGoogle Looks Beyond Smart Meters for Home Energy Data).
Just because the DOE has made a commitment to move very quickly to award money, it doesn't mean the money will be coming fast by the terms of the private sector, noted Doug Faulkner, president and co-founder of Chrysalis Energy Partners.
"Even if a solicitation is issued today, it's likely it will be one to two years before you see the cash – and that's if you win," he said.
On the other hand, he noted, "If you wait to prepare your response when a solicitation comes out, it's probably already too late," he added.
Faulkner's firm is ready to help navigate the stimulus application maze for a price -- one of a host of consulting offers that have sprung up in the wake of the stimulus package's February passage (see How to Get Stimulus Dollars).
But if you're looking for someone to explain the stimulus package to you on the government's dime, try calling a DOE hotline at 1-888 DOE RCVY, Rogers said.