Energy may be a topic for the U.S. Congress this fall. But will homeowners be rewarded with real incentives for making energy-efficiency upgrades to their homes?
I had a chance to speak with legislative aides for Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Scott Brown, (R-Mass.) about this subject last week at the EnergySmart Conference hosted by energy management and demand response company EnerNOC in Boston.
Shaheen has partnered with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to introduce the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011. The bill has been passed by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources with support from both parties, though it focuses on providing commercial and industrial energy efficiency incentives.
Brown is behind the “eKnow” bill that would ensure consumers have access to their energy information, especially as it is collected by utilities as part of smart grid programs being rolled out.
But what of the Home Star legislation, introduced last year and providing up to $3,000 or more in instant rebates to homeowners investing in energy-efficiency upgrades? The $6 billion, two-year program enjoyed bipartisan support, but was repeatedly tacked on to failed legislation, such as a cap-and-trade bill.
Nat Hoopes, aide for Sen. Brown, says that Brown co-sponsored the Home Star bill in the Senate and that it could be brought up with other legislation, such as the Shaheen-Portman bill.
However. Trent Bauserman, aide for Sen. Shaheen, says there is little hope for Home Star. For one, it requires funding, which makes it a non-starter in this Congress of austerity. (The Shaheen-Portman bill is funded by re-allocating funds.) Though some, like President Obama, have proposed ending the approximate $4 billion in annual tax giveaways and subsidies to the oil and gas industries to fund programs like Home Star. That’s likely not to happen, either.
Bauserman also says the Home Star Coalition that lobbied for the legislation has pretty much broken up.
It was also unclear whether Home Star would have included rebates for technologies like energy management systems.
Tax credits for renewable energy systems are available at the federal level, though the credits for energy efficiency upgrades have been lowered. Some states have incentives for energy efficiency upgrades. You can find federal and state incentives at the DSIRE web site.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates