SACRAMENTO – California plans to spend nearly $300 million in federal stimulus cash on a wide range of energy projects, a key state official said yesterday.

The California Energy Commission is prepared to invest in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, boost energy efficiency or renewable energy and create "green" jobs, said Panama Bartholomy, an adviser to commission Chairwoman Karen Douglas.

As states rush to meet federal deadlines for applying for stimulus assistance – the deadline for preliminary applications to the U.S. Energy Department is March 23 – they are also struggling to figure out how to distribute the money as quickly as possible. All funds must be used by September 2010.

Of more than $50 billion that California is expecting to receive overall, about $295 million will go to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The Energy Commission will distribute money via grants and loans.

"This is an incredibly fast-moving train," Bartholomy said at a green technology conference here.

The state will receive $226 million from DOE's State Energy Program, up from between $1 million and $3 million last year.

It will also get $56 million from the federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, with shares going to local governments and tribes, Bartholomy said. Another $30 million will apply to rebates for energy-efficient appliances.

"We're getting hundreds of calls a day" from local and regional officials looking for information on grants and projects the state wants to fund, Batholomy said. He is urging businesses to work with colleges and laboratories, as the stimulus provides $8.4 billion for research into clean fossil fuels, advanced batteries and renewable energy.

A wide range of projects will qualify, he said. "If a program reduces emissions, you can use it," he said. "As long as it reduces energy use. Anything from a regional transportation plan to home weatherization programs and practically anything in between."

Top agency candidates for cash: the Department of General Services, the Transportation Department, Parks and Recreation and the State Building Revolving Loan Fund. Local governments, Bartholomy suggested, could distribute renewable energy bonds under a state law, A.B. 811, that lets homeowners pay back loans for rooftop solar panels through property tax bills.

Another major area of investment will be home retrofits, particularly for middle-income residents who are still vulnerable to foreclosure.

"Moderate income folks are in this real valley of death," Bartholomy said. "We want to stabilize neighborhoods and prevent future foreclosures." The state's Community Services and Development Department will also get about $185 million for weatherizing low-income homes.

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500