Equilibrium & Sustainability

Biden administration announces $500M for energy efficiency in public schools

The Biden administration on Monday announced a $500 million grant program to improve energy efficiency in public schools. 

The initiative, paid for with funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law, will prioritize schools facing the greatest need, according to administration officials. Vice President Harris is set to announce the initiative Monday afternoon at Neville Thomas Elementary School in Washington, D.C., which installed solar panels in 2016 that now comprise 10 percent of its energy usage. 

“Public K-12 districts spend roughly $8 billion a year on energy bills, meaning energy efficiency improvements to HVAC systems, lighting, insulation and other energy upgrades can unlock significant savings to go towards student learning and success,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters Monday. 

The administration also announced the deployment of new online guidance for the $5 billion that the bipartisan law puts toward energy-efficient school buses. The senior official noted that under the status quo, students are frequently exposed to diesel exhaust from idling buses. 

“Studies have shown that poor air quality inside classrooms takes a toll on student concentration and performance, and diesel exhaust exposure is linked to increased school absences. Reducing pollution will provide better health and educational outcomes, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color that face underinvestment and high pollution,” the official said. 

The announcement comes against the backdrop of the Biden administration’s broader goal of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. In an executive order in late 2021, Biden called for the federal government to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. With the more ambitious Build Back Better package stalled in the Senate, executive orders and funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law are seen as some of the White House’s best chances to implement major environmental agenda items, particularly if Democrats lose control of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.  

Tags Climate change Education Energy Joe Biden Kamala Harris Public schools white house

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