Recovery Act’s Impact on Energy Spending

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Pub.L. 111-5, Recovery Act, ARRA) is the economic stimulus package passed by Congress on February 13, 2009, and signed by President Obama four days later. As of February 2011, the package was expected to total $821 billion in costs through 2019 delivered through a combination of federal tax cuts, temporary expansion of economic assistance provisions, and domestic spending to advance economic recovery and create new jobs, as well as save existing ones. From advancing smart grid development to supporting appliance rebate programs, the Recovery Act has allowed the United States to make significant headway in building the foundation of its clean energy economy. We recently released an update to our 2009 white paper on the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Recovery Act spending. The publication summarizes DOE ARRA spending, the Recovery Act's effects on employment, and highlights a number of notable projects. 

Out of the more than $90 billion in Recovery Act funding designated for clean energy, the DOE received $41.7 billion. The DOE's Recovery Act spending, although initially slow, picked up over the last year and a half. As of April 22, 2011, the Recovery Act funds have been authorized, awarded, and outlaid by DOE program offices as follows:

U.S. Department of Energy Recovery Act Funding by Office. Dollars in Billions

DOE Program Office


Awarded (%)

Outlaid (%)

Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)


$0.387 (100%)

$0.101 (26.2%)

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)


16.6 (99.9)

6.88 (41.3)

Office of Environmental Management (EM)


5.98 (99.9)

4.26 (71.2)

Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE)


4.49 (100)

1.11 (24.8)

Office of Fossil Energy (FE)


3.38 (100)

0.213 (6.31)

Office of Science(SC)


1.67 (100)

0.963 (57.7)

Loan Guarantee Program (LGP)


0.763 (30.9)

0.224 (9.07)

Western Area Power Administration (WAPA)


0.008 (76.0)

0.005 (54.5)



33.4 (95.0)

13.8 (39.3)

Funds that are 'authorized' are made available by Congress for a specific purpose; funds that are 'awarded' are committed to a specific project or activity and will likely result in payment; funds that are 'outlaid' have been paid to the recipient. Percentages are out of the total funding authorized.

In preparation for the clean energy future, $2.4 billion worth of DOE Recovery Act projects are supporting electric vehicle deployment, while breakthrough energy technologies are actively being researched and commercialized through ARPA-E. Meanwhile, clean energy manufacturing grants to businesses are promoting economic development, and appliance rebate programs have already begun helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consumers' electricity bills. These programs are also stimulating the economy through the purchase of ENERGY STAR qualified appliances and the increased expendable income resulting from energy bill savings. As of the end of 2010, the Recovery Act created or saved between 1.3 million and 3.93 million jobs, of which over 168,000 are a result of the DOE's Recovery Act spending.

As further elaborated in our white paper, these examples demonstrate how the Recovery Act has had an immediate impact, while simultaneously preparing the United States for a clean energy future.

Sam Wurzelmann is a Solutions Fellow