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Published in Energy

Advanced energy ‘roadmap’ offers plan to spend federal infrastructure funding

BY Tuesday, June 07, 2022 11:56am

A statewide advanced energy trade group recently released a “roadmap” for the state to maximize hundreds of millions of dollars in federal infrastructure funding in the coming years.

Released late last month, the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council’s report highlights hundreds of millions of dollars for energy efficiency weatherization in homes, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, power grid resilience and advanced manufacturing.

While state officials already oversee multiple programs and initiatives that align with these efforts, the MEIBC’s roadmap is meant to act as a guide for policymakers making funding decisions in the coming years on one-time federal infrastructure dollars.

“There’s a lot out there, and there’s a whole lot of opportunities,” MEIBC President Laura Sherman said of ongoing state-level advanced energy initiatives. “They may know a lot about one specific program, or may know broadly about the area they’re working on, but may not be aware of all of the opportunities or how they could work together.”

The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law last year by President Biden includes roughly $110 million over five years to develop electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Michigan, as well as about $169 million to reduce transportation-sector emissions. Michigan also will directly receive more than $183 million — the third-highest allocation in the nation — under the federal Weatherization Assistance Program to help pay for home energy efficiency upgrades.

Michigan also will receive portions of, or compete for, billions of dollars nationally for grid resilience to avoid power outages and advanced transportation investments.

“I hope Michigan is very competitive for a number of these grant opportunities,” Sherman said. “There’s some the state can lead on, and some that industry, local governments, utilities and the Public Service Commission need to. But it depends first on whether those entities are able to put in a competitive application.”

While the amount of job-creation potential under the federal infrastructure funding remains unclear, Sherman noted opportunities particularly in the energy efficiency space, which comprises the highest percentage of clean energy jobs in Michigan. For example, the $183 million for weatherization is an increase from $19 million annually.

“Broadly there are huge job-creation opportunities,” Sherman said.

The MEIBC report also provides policy recommendations and spending priorities. 

That includes applying for a share of $40 million in competitive funding to build out the workforce needed, such as energy auditors, to perform efficiency upgrades. As MiBiz previously reported, the state has struggled to spend down federal weatherization funding because of a shrinking pool of contractors.

For transportation, recommendations include having state energy regulators convene long-range planning with utilities on vehicle electrification and having the state fund a $45 million program to pilot electric bus initiatives.

The report also draws attention to a potential “green mobility bank” that could act like the state’s Michigan Saves program, a green bank to finance clean energy projects.

“We believe there are financing challenges to both the deployment of charging infrastructure and also electric vehicles, especially for low-income customers,” Sherman said. “The idea would be to do a similar thing with Michigan Saves with a revolving loan fund to bring in private capital and try to fill that financing gap that exists.”

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