A $4.8 million green energy program in Delaware has failed to achieve the cost savings promised by its advocates, according to a report released Tuesday by the state's auditor, Thomas Wagner.
Wagner's analysis found that the state's Sustainable Energy Utility program was not in the state's best interest.
"The possibility of the state breaking even on this agreement is looking bleak," the analysis said.
The program was focused on overhauling state buildings near the capitol with energy efficient heating and cooling units, light bulbs and plumbing. Errors plagued the program from the start. The heating and cooling units "proved to be unreliable and improperly installed." New sink fixtures were "eventually removed because they proved to soak employees as they washed their hands."
Although it was small in scale, the investigation has wider implications. It is yet another instance of a taxpayer-funded green energy project failing to live up to its promised benefits.
The investigation cites a 2005 report from the federal Government Accountability Office that examined energy savings performance contracts, beginning in 1986. "These contracts are similar to Delaware's [guaranteed energy savings agreements] contracts," the Delaware report says. The federal investigation found that there was often no documentation to confirm the energy savings reported by federal agencies.
"Had the state performed its due diligence and a robust cost-benefit analysis, the state could have implemented the 'lessons learned' from the federal government a decade ago and avoided repeating the same mistakes," the Delaware investigation said.
The project was initially projected to save the state $2.8 million between 2014 and 2033. But unforeseen expenses, like equipment failures and additional employees, give reason to doubt the estimated cost savings will be achieved.
In the end, the public will have no idea if the project was able to save money or not. "The state's accounting for the energy funding and contractual payments is so complex, the state will never know whether true cost savings is occurring."
In addition to doubts over cost savings, the inspection was partially motivated by claims that state officials stood to gain from the green energy agreements. However, no such evidence was found.
Jason Russell is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.