Archive for March 17th, 2010|Daily archive page

Homestar. All in favor?

The Senate committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on the Homestar program received universal support for the most part. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the program, it basically gives incentives to consumers to make their homes more energy efficient which is considered to be low hanging fruit. Here are the main features of the program from the White House website:

  • Rebates delivered directly to consumers: Like the Cash for Clunkers program, consumers would be eligible for direct HOMESTAR rebates at the point of sale for a variety of energy-saving investments in their homes. A broad array of vendors, from small independent building material dealers, large national home improvement chains, energy efficiency installation professionals and utility energy efficiency programs (including rural utilities) would market the rebates, provide them directly to consumers and then be reimbursed by the federal government.
  • $1,000 – $1,500 Silver Star Rebates: Consumers looking to have simple upgrades performed in their homes would be eligible for 50% rebates up to $1,000 – $1,500 for doing any of a straightforward set of upgrades, including: insulation, duct sealing, water heaters, HVAC units, windows, roofing and doors. Under Silver Star, consumers can chose a combination of upgrades for rebates up to a maximum of $3,000 per home. Rebates would be limited to the most energy efficient categories of upgrades—focusing on products made primarily in the United States and installed by certified contractors.
  • $3000 Gold Star Rebates: Consumers interested in more comprehensive energy retrofits would be eligible for a $3,000 rebate for a whole home energy audit and subsequent retrofit tailored to achieve a 20% energy savings in their homes. Consumers could receive additional rebate amounts for energy savings in excess of 20%. Gold Star would build on existing whole home retrofit programs, like EPA’s successful Home Performance with Energy Star program.
  • Oversight to Ensure Quality Installations: The program would require that contractors be certified to perform efficiency installations. Independent quality assurance providers would conduct field audits after work is completed to ensure proper installation so consumers receive energy savings from their upgrades. States would oversee the implementation of quality assurance to ensure that the program was moving the industry toward more robust standards and comprehensive energy retrofit practices.

Sounds pretty good right? One of the main complaints that was mentioned during the hearing was that the proposal did not include rebates for people who wanted to retrofit their homes themselves. The reason for this was explained by Catherine Zoi, Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy at the DOE. The proposal was designed to create jobs in the construction industry which has been very hard hit by the recession, therefore, in its current state, it does not allow do it yourself installations. Sen. Burr went as far as saying that he would not support this bill unless it had a DIY provision.

I hope all the details get ironed out because the program just makes so much sense. Waste is stupid. The less we waste, the more we save and who doesn’t want to save money? I recently went to an open house event that was organized by CarbonfreeDC. This random couple invited strangers into their home to show what they did to make it energy efficient. They were part of a green project called Climate Pilots which was a collaboration between the City of Kalmar in Sweden and the Embassy of Sweden in Washington.

One of the main things they added to their house was a ground source heat pump. Initial costs just for this was $30,000. I know what you’re thinking, that’s really expensive. I agree. The guy who owned the house said it would pay for itself in 8 years by his calculations  which doesn’t sound that bad actually, it’s just the upfront cost which is unbelievable. Who has $30,000 to spare? People need assistance to bare the upfront costs if they want to green their home. If we really can get programs like Homestar implemented, I truly think people will take advantage of it.



Zero-sum Fun

I would have thought that if a poll resulted in contradictory results, like the NBC-Wall Street poll on health care which says that voting for or against the health care reform will both make voters less likely to vote for their Congress person you might question the validity of poll results. But not if you’re Chuck Todd to whom such a finding indicates “polarization” of the issue.