The city of San Antonio is hoping to secure newly available federal funding over the next two years to bolster its sustainability and climate action efforts.
City staff briefed the council Wednesday on how San Antonio might apply for federal Inflation Reduction Act money for programs that would help the city meet its climate goals.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 aims to curb inflation by reducing the deficit, lowering prescription drug prices and investing in domestic energy production while promoting clean energy. The new law includes $369 billion in funding to tackle climate change.
City staff recommended the funds go towards investing locally in greener energy technology, supporting home weatherization, and fighting urban heat islands. Council was largely receptive.
“I’m glad to see this work on linking to capital projects,” said Ana Sandoval (D7).
But as of yet, it’s unclear exactly how to qualify for the funding, said Assistant City Manager Jeff Coyle. The money is available through tax credits, grant funding, low-interest loans and customer rebates, Coyle said.
“Right now, the status of the IRA, in a nutshell, is that there are dozens — literally dozens of new programs and very, very little guidance from the federal agencies,” Coyle said.
Despite that uncertainty, Coyle told the council that the federal government plans to move quickly to get money out to cities and states.
“We expect there to be an urgency by the [Biden] administration to move this funding and these programs out as quickly as possible over the next two years for political reasons,” he said, “and we also expect there will be anticipated scrutiny and increased oversight by Congress, particularly the Republican-led House providing oversight over the administration’s programs.”
The city’s biggest opportunity in relation to the tax credits lies with CPS Energy, Coyle said.
There are four areas where CPS Energy could tap into federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, Jonathan Tijerina, vice president of enterprise risk and development, told the council: new technology, climate transformation, ownership, and grid transformation.
CPS Energy is looking at energy storage opportunities and possibly even geothermal generation options, he said. Pilots funded with federal dollars could be helpful in mitigating costs to CPS Energy customers, Tijerina added.
Other areas the city would like to use federal funds to boost its sustainability efforts are in its home weatherization programs, in projects that improve energy efficiency, water efficiency, and indoor air quality, and on implementing low emission technologies and materials, Coyle said.
“So we see opportunities to work with our for-profit and nonprofit partners to potentially weatherize and retrofit existing properties, and to potentially upgrade some of the new construction that’s being built to add energy efficiency.”
The city hopes to also leverage its 2022 bond dollars earmarked for streets and sidewalks, Coyle said. Within the IRA, the Neighborhood Access and Equity grant program will distribute $3 billion to support projects that improve walkability, safety and affordable transportation access. These funds could be used to help attack local urban heat islands, he said.
This would include the installation of cool pavements, expanded tree coverage and the adoption of electric fleet vehicles.
“So we expect to be pursuing opportunities as we get clarity,” Coyle said.