As the nation champions efficiency as one of the pillars of the new energy age, Wisconsin has emerged as one of the states leading the charge.

In June, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced more than $76 million in stimulus funding grants for advanced energy-efficient technology projects and training programs for new workers in this growing field of specialization.

Funding was dispersed among 58 projects in more than two dozen states. The bulk of the awards was given to technology projects that will achieve greater energy efficiency in the 114 million households and more than 74 million square feet of commercial floor space nationwide, which according to the DOE, account for approximately 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption. The selected projects will achieve efficiency through various means, including advanced building control, communications and information technologies for net-zero energy buildings; analysis, design and technical tools; building envelopes and windows; residential commercial heating, ventilating and air conditioning; water heating; and residential and commercial appliances. Collectively, these projects received $68.4 million of the total funds awarded.
The remaining $7.6 million was awarded to the development of training programs for commercial building equipment technicians, building operators, and energy commissioning agents and auditors.
Funding for all of the programs will be leveraged with private investment to increase the total overall investment in efficiency to more than $100 million.

While some states had as few as one project that was awarded funds, Wisconsin was one of a handful of states receiving funding for multiple projects; only California received more funds. Overall, six projects were awarded nearly $8 million in Wisconsin. They include plans to develop integrated building management and demand-response control systems, advanced load identification and management for buildings, optimization of cooling systems, and the development of curriculum at the University of Wisconsin and Milwaukee Area Technical College to train building operations staff members and energy commissioning agents, auditors and engineers.

The awards should come as little surprise because government leaders and citizens alike in Wisconsin have already embraced efficiency. Earlier this year, Gov. Jim Doyle announced that residents, farms and businesses saved more than $319 million in energy costs in 2009—compared to $239 million in 2008—through energy-efficiency and renewable-energy initiatives. Their efforts were assisted by the state’s Focus on Energy program, which has been in existence for several years. It works with eligible residents and businesses to install cost-effective energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects. The goal of the program is to provide information, resources and financial incentives that will help implement projects that otherwise would not be completed or to complete projects sooner than scheduled.