President Obama yesterday called for a comprehensive energy policy that includes a focus on improving energy efficiency in homes and businesses. The speech marked the release of the Obama administration’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, which also includes plans for electric vehicles, (EVs), clean energy technology and increasing offshore oil drilling and the development of nuclear power.
The administration’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future does include incentives for homeowners to purchase energy efficient products for the home. This is largely in the form of the HomeStar bill that has been before Congress as parts of other legislation. HomeStar would give homeowners up to $3,000—and possibly more, in point-of-sale rebates for the purchase of energy efficient products from insulation to appliances, but whether electronic systems like energy management and home control systems would be included is still unclear.
Obama amplified the need for energy efficiency. “The nice thing about energy efficiency is that we have the technologies,” he said.
But will the call for more energy efficiency in homes and businesses resonate? Energy efficiency was buried in the speech behind hot-button issues such as offshore oil drilling, building nuclear power plants, possible investments clean energy technologies and the president’s call for more electric vehicles (EVs). With such big issues overshadowing it, energy efficiency and energy management needs a more aggressive pitch. If aggressively promoted, this could be this country’s energy efficiency moment.
The Promise of HomeStar
According to the Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, the HomeStar (Cash for Caulkers) program, would offer two levels of rebates: Silver Star and Gold Star:
$1,000 – $1,500 Silver Star Rebates—Consumers looking to have simple upgrades performed in their homes would be eligible for 50 percent in rebates up to $1,000 to $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 efficiency projects would be eligible for a $3,000 rebate for a whole home energy audit and subsequent energy improvement project tailored to achieve a 20 percent energy savings in their homes. Consumers could receive additional rebate amounts for energy savings in excess of 20 percent. Gold Star would build on existing whole home energy efficiency programs, like EPA’s successful Home Performance with Energy Star program, and would
require that contractors be certified to perform efficiency installations.
HomeStar was part of the proposed climate change bill that was scuttled, largely due to lack of support for the controversial carbon cap-and trade measures. The Home Star Act of 2010 and regulations concerning oil drilling survived to make it into another bill, the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act of 2010, and action on it was postponed. Last year Intel and a consortium of energy management systems makers were working to get energy management systems added to the program.