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Bipartisan HOMES Act is the Perfect Trifecta: More Jobs, Less Pollution, Lower Bills

Meg Waltner

Posted March 21, 2012 in Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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How can we create jobs, cut pollution and put more money in consumers’ pockets? The Home Owner Managing Energy Savings Act (HOMES Act), introduced today by Reps. McKinley (R-WV) and Welch (D-VT) would do all three. This bipartisan bill would offer homeowners rebates to undertake comprehensive home energy retrofits, making homes more comfortable and affordable, while creating jobs in the ailing construction industry implementing efficiency measures that would reduce harmful air pollution.

The HOMES Act offers homeowners a rebate of $2000 to $8000 for undertaking a retrofit designed to reduce the home’s energy use by at least 20 percent. In order to qualify for a rebate, a homeowner would hire a certified contractor who would model and implement a set of measures designed to reduce the home’s energy bills by 20 to 50 percent. These measures could include things like increased insulation, air sealing, high efficiency heating and cooling equipment, and better windows. This technology-neutral approach will allow consumers to achieve the greatest possible energy savings at the lowest cost, making their investment pay back quickly. Looking at the building as a whole-system can achieve greater cost-effective energy savings because of the synergistic interaction between different measures. For instance, a home owner could increase air sealing and insulation in their home, allowing them to buy a smaller HVAC system.

The amount of the incentive is scaled based on the projected energy savings from the measures implemented and ranges from $2000 for 20 percent savings increasing $1000 for each additional 5 percent in energy savings up to $8000 for savings of 50 percent or greater. The total amount of the rebate is capped at 50 percent of the homeowners’ expenditures on the project. By implementing measures that reduce energy use, homeowners will be able to make their homes more comfortable and reduce their energy bills. In addition to the jobs created to perform the actual retrofits, additional jobs will be created as homeowners spend their energy bill savings elsewhere in the economy on additional goods and services.

Non-owner occupied rental units in buildings of up to 4 units are eligible for rebates as well. This is important because for these buildings there is a split incentive between the landlord, who makes decisions about the home’s efficiency, and the tenant, who pays the bills affected by those decisions. While this bill doesn’t do away with this split incentive problem entirely, it would reduce the size of the hurdle.

The HOMES Act is a great bipartisan effort to help homeowners reduce their energy bills, create jobs and reduce pollution. It is similar to other previously introduced bipartisan bills that encourage homeowners to undertake whole-home energy retrofits, such as the Gold Star provision in Home Star (111th Congress HR 5019) and the proposed tax credit in the Cut Energy Bills at Home Act (S. 1914). Representatives McKinley and Welch have proven once again that that clean energy isn’t a partisan issue.  We can save money, reduce pollution, and strengthen the economy by making smart investments in the clean energy technologies of tomorrow. We urge the House to pass this bill without delay.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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