Bemidji Pioneer Editorial Board

While work continues to determine where all of the $789 billion in federal economic stimulus funds will be spent, Minnesota received good news Thursday as the Obama administration announced that of $8 billion set aside for energy efficiency efforts, Minnesota will get $186.1 million.

One may argue whether the spending is true economic stimulus — it won’t build any roads or bridges — but it will aid a lot of low-income people in a state that can get very cold for long periods of time.

Coming to Minnesota is $131.9 million for the state’s Weatherization Assistance Program and $54.2 million for the Minnesota State Energy Program.

The Weatherization Assistance Program will allow an average investment of up to $6,500 per home in energy efficiency upgrades and will be available for families making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level — or about $44,000 a year for a family of four. The State Energy Program funding will be available for rebates to consumers for home energy audits or other energy saving improvements; development of renewable energy projects for clean electricity generation and alternative fuels; promotion of Energy Star products; efficiency upgrades for state and local government buildings; and other innovative state efforts to help save families money on their energy bills.

“This energy efficiency funding for states is an important investment in making America more energy independent, creating a cleaner economy and creating more jobs for the 21st century that can’t be outsourced,” Vice President Joe Biden said in announcing the Minnesota funding.

“Rising energy costs are making it hard for Minnesotans to heat their homes in the winter,” U.S. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., said in a separate statement. “These funds will help families save money, create jobs and businesses, and reduce energy consumption to make sure Minnesota families aren’t left out in the cold. It is imperative that we give our families the help they need to keep pace with the sharp increase in heating costs.”

Overall, the $8 billion of economic stimulus funding will create about 87,000 jobs, which should be considered economic stimulus. Also, it’s a “green jobs” bill in that it cuts reliance on foreign oil by making what energy we use more efficient and helps cut energy bills for families.

It’s a great boost for Minnesota as well. Sen. Klobuchar notes that the new weatherization aid will help weatherize the homes of more than 35,000 families, compared to the $10 million the state received last year which helped only 4,000 homes.

The energy efficiency funding is a good investment for a “green” Minnesota, which also wants to lead the nation in research and development of renewable fuels and in the use of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar.