U.S. Energy Secretary unveils new funding for Louisiana program aimed at energy efficiency
During a trip to the New Orleans area on Wednesday, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced $90 million in federal grants aimed at helping local governments upgrade their building codes to make homes and other buildings more energy efficient, some of which will go towards new training programs in Louisiana.
Of the $90 million in total awards, Louisiana will receive $1.6 million. That money will be used to train builders, contractors, architects, and local building codes officials, among others, about a set of new codes that went into effect in the state this year.
Granholm made the announcement with Gov. John Bel Edwards at a staged event in Kenner at the Home Builder Institute’s BuildStrong Academy, which provides training in the construction trades.
The backdrop gave Granholm an opportunity to promote the investments and new jobs that President Joe Biden has said will come from his infrastructure act, which is sending billions of dollars to state and local governments for mass transit and eco-friendly building projects.
The setting also enabled her to applaud states and municipalities that have enacted modern, energy efficient building codes.
“Louisiana has shown unbelievable leadership in advancing next generation building codes,” Granholm said. “We want this to be done across the country.”
Lower utility bills
Though it went largely unnoticed, the Louisiana Legislature unanimously passed updated standards for all new construction during the 2022 session. Rules affecting new roof construction went into effect in January and are designed to make roofs more resilient in the event of storm damage.
Rules affecting energy efficiency went into effect July 1 and center on the amount of insulation new structures are required to have.
Homes built to such updated standards are 40% more efficient than homes built just 15 years ago, which means lower utility bills, according to Granholm’s office.
Jackie Dadakis, CEO of Green Coast Enterprises, who led the effort to draft Louisiana’s new building codes, said the average homeowner who builds to the standards in the new codes will save more than $150 a year on their electric bills, though the requirements only add about 5% to the cost of a new construction project.
Before the Kenner announcement, Granholm delivered the keynote address at the Department of Energy’s Small Business Forum and Expo, which was held in downtown New Orleans. In her remarks, Granholm highlighted the administration’s efforts to promote the development of clean and renewable energy sources.
Federal tax credits under the Biden Inflation Reduction Act, for instance, incentivized development of new wind and solar projects. The 10-year credits will help ensure that even if political administrations change, the investment will remain, Granholm said.
"Once you have factories in the ground it’s difficult to pull up the incentives that the companies relied on to put them there," she said. "Jobs are not red or blue. They produce green money so I feel very confident all of this will remain."