The green revolution and America’s economic recovery are indelibly intertwined. Doubters of this connection need only check the latest headlines.
Case in point, touting the job growth and cost savings to be had from home energy-efficiency retrofits, Vice President Joe Biden recently unveiled a blueprint for federal leadership in the sector.
Earlier in the year, he had requested a proposal for federal action to lay the groundwork for a self-sustaining industry. Responding to that request, under the leadership of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, a collaboration of federal agencies recently released a report, “Recovery Through Retrofit,” which offers recommendations for how to use existing authority and funding in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) to accomplish the vice president’s goal.
In a statement announcing the new report, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) claims that techniques and technologies in energy efficiency exist with the capacity to reduce national energy use by up to 40 percent per home and lower total associated greenhouse gas emissions by up to 160 million metric tons every year. The DOE also asserts that retrofits of existing homes have the potential to cut home energy bills by $21 billion annually.
In order to overcome certain barriers that have prevented a self-sustaining retrofit market from forming, the “Recovery Through Retrofit” report recommends that the federal government take steps to inform homeowners, reduce costs and standardize the retrofit industry. On the first point, the report asserts that consumers need consistent, accessible and trusted information that provides a reliable benchmark of energy efficiency and sound estimates of the costs and benefits of retrofits. Second, the report argues for programs, such as long-term municipal loans repaid through the owners’ property tax bills, to reduce high upfront costs and make retrofits more accessible. Finally, it claims that national work force certifications and training standards are needed to establish consumer confidence in the industry.
At the same time that the report was unveiled, the DOE announced the availability of $454 million in ARRA funding for national energy efficiency efforts. The funding includes $390 million for a new program called “Retrofit Ramp-Up” that will deploy innovative approaches to building retrofits that focus on promoting energy efficiency.
Reinforcing the themes of the vice president’s report, Energy Secretary Steven Chu explained, “The Retrofit Ramp-Up initiative is designed to slice through the barriers identified in this report—inconvenience, lack of information, and lack of financing—and to make energy efficiency easy and accessible to all.”