HOMESTAR : Incentives for residential energy efficiency

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HOMESTAR is a program proposed by Obama to provide incentives for homeowners to make energy efficiency investments in their homes.  This is different than the Energy Star Appliance State Rebate that we covered last month.  Last week Obama was in Savannah, Georgia to promote this program at Savannah Technical College which trains students on home efficiency retrofits.

The White House article on HOMESTAR (first link in then article) states that the program would provide the following benefits:

  • Rebates delivered directly to consumers - no waiting around for $$$!
  • Silver Star Rebates - $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."
  • Gold Star Rebates - $3,000 rebate for a Home Energy Audit and subsequent improvement in energy consumption!  I believe this is the first program that would reward people for getting a home energy audit.
  • Oversight to ensure quality installations - This would require certification, which is very much needed considering all the construction workers who will now be labeling themselves "energy efficiency experts"
  • Support for financing

The article also says that "the program would help reduce our economy’s dependence on oil" but this is one talking point I take exception with.  There is no need to confuse the public on the relationship between oil and home energy usage.  I highlighted this point in my post on The Importance of Energy Data with my not-so-subtle statement: "What drives me absolutely nuts is that there is a large majority of our population (including a lot of politicians) who actually think we get a large percentage of our electricity from OIL!!!"  We get so little of our electrical power from Oil that is it almost not worth mentioning.  Let's stay focused on reducing foreign oil by changing our transportation methods.

The program will be working its way through Congress for the next few months, but we're excited to see what the final bill will look like.  My biggest questions around the HOMESTAR program relate to how it would work with the current federal tax incentives for energy efficiency improvements.  The program would provide users with rebates at the point of purchase, which differs from a tax credit which you have to wait on until you file your taxes (ugh!).  Check out our post on the topic if you're a little fuzzy on the difference between a tax credit and a rebate.

The HOMESTAR program has had input from trade associations, like Efficiency First, business professionals (who make and sell energy efficient products, and private investors.  I found this Time article titled "A Green Seat At the Table" very interesting as it chronicled John Doerr's (of Kleiner-Perkins) involvement with the proposed program (I must point out that Al Gore is also a partner in Kleiner-Perkins).  You may remember Doerr's name as he is the money behind Bloom Energy, which we covered heavily 2 weeks ago.  The Time article was only partially on the benefits of HomeStar, but also focused on the ethics of people who stand to benefit from a certain policy who have a hand in forming that same policy.

If HOMESTAR can put those in the construction field back to work, support the manufacturers and their employees who make energy efficient products (like insulation and windows) and also make it easier for Americans to improve the value of their home and save money on energy costs then it sounds like an excellent program.   Would something like this inspire you to finally make the leap and get a home energy audit or upgrade your insulation?

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