The Industrial Assessment Center program is one of the most successful energy efficiency initiatives in the federal government. It has a long history, predating the Department of Energy itself, and serves several niches that are often overlooked when developing energy efficiency programs—namely workforce development and a focus on small and mid-sized enterprises. For about the last five years, however, funding for this important program has been cut, not only resulting in fewer energy engineers and assessments, but also nearly suffocating the program, leaving each of the 26 centers without enough funds to run a sustainable program. ACEEE has long recommended that Congress and the DOE restore funding to previous levels.
In light of this recent trouble, ACEEE is pleased to see DOE’s newfound commitment to the IAC program. Recent appropriation bills have shown an increase in the IAC budget, and earlier this year DOE began the process to select schools that would host the IACs for the next five-year cycle. This new solicitation encouraged the applicants to seek funding from local partners by offering a 50% cost share with those local funds. On September 12, DOE released the list of universities that will host IACs from FY 2012 through FY 2016. The awards total $30 million+ over the five-year span, which is about $6 million per year. For the last several years, the program has been given only about $4 million per year. Including the local cost share, the IAC program will have over $7 million per year. This will be the highest budget the program has seen since funding cuts began in 2000. (Note: the $4 million value does not include state and local funds being used by a number of centers.)
While the total budget for the IACs did go up, DOE awarded only 24 centers instead of the 26 currently funded. This means, however, that each center will be receiving more funds (in some cases, the increase in center funding could double). Each center would receive between $200,000 and $300,000 per year. As always, this number will be subject to the annual Congressional budget appropriation process. However, ACEEE is confident that with the recent support the program has been receiving both on Capitol Hill and at DOE, the IACs will in fact see this consistent level of funding.
The table below shows the current centers and the new list by region. Of the current centers that were not renewed, of note is the University of Illinois-Chicago, whose Energy Resources Center contains numerous programs, including one of DOE’s regional Clean Energy Application Centers, which promote combined heat and power and clean distributed generation.