In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to pass a program of incentives for homeowners who make energy efficiency investments in their homes. His answer to this is the Homestar program, which he says will help create jobs by encouraging American families to invest in energy saving home improvements.
While we are disappointed that the budget allocated for the program has already been reduced from $10 billion to $6 billion, the program still represents a step in the right direction.
Here are the key components of the Homestar Program:
- 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.
- $3,000 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.
- Support for financing: The program would include support to State and local governments to provide financing options for consumers seeking to make efficiency investments in their homes. This will help ensure that consumers can afford to make these investments.
The president claims the program will result in the creation of tens of thousands of jobs while achieving substantial reductions in energy use—the equivalent of the entire output of three coal-fired power plants each year. Consumers in the program are anticipated to save between $200– $500 per year in energy costs, while improving the comfort and value of their homes.
Support for Homestar has come from a broad coalition of policymakers, industry leaders, labor and environmental groups, and hundreds of small businesses in all 50 states that will be able to hire new workers and invest in their communities if Homestar becomes a reality. Interested companies and organizations are invited to join this growing coalition. To learn more about the Homestar legislation and how you can support its passage, please visit Efficiency First.
Also check out the Home Star Coalition
for more on the program of for a list of organizations and businesses that support the initiative.
And stay tuned. We plan to follow the development of this program and put our reporters on the street to talk to contractors and home owners about how the program is making an impact in their markets.
Photo: Courtesy Owens Corning