HPC Working For You Series: Federal Policy
HPC develops new approaches to federal, state and local policies that promote growth in the residential energy efficiency sector through research, education, and policy analysis. HPC works with stakeholders to resolve the most serious issues facing the residential energy efficiency industry and is a focal point for collaborative efforts on data standardization, program cost-effectiveness testing, weatherization, the valuation of home energy efficiency in the real estate market, and the integration of smart grid technology with residential building performance.
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The Building Performance Association undertakes policy research and policy advocacy to advance whole-house energy efficiency retrofits. This work is done to expand the energy efficiency home retrofit market by ensuring that the proper policies, regulations and legislation are enacted to create more jobs in the retrofit industry while reducing costs for the homeowners and making their homes more comfortable and healthy.
As you will read below, these efforts take the form of stakeholder engagement to discover the challenges and barriers to energy efficiency retrofits, research to determine creative solutions to those challenges, reports and presentations to educate about the research, and advocacy to work with policymakers to turn policies from concept into law.
Federal Funding for Energy Efficiency
To advance residential energy efficiency policy it is important to have a well-funded federal agency that can assist states and stakeholders in research, technical assistance, standard setting, and stakeholder engagement. HPC advocates for funding of vital residential energy efficiency programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Within DOE, HPC has been calling for federal support for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), and the State Energy Program (SEP) – all programs important to providing support and technical assistance to the states and home performance industry. While the President’s budget request recommended a 70% cut to EERE and the elimination of WAP and SEP, both the House and Senate FY18 spending bills largely maintain WAP and SEP funding and the Senate cuts were not as severe to EERE (FY2017 funded at $2.09B and Committee Reported $1.94B). Furthermore, HPC has been supporting the Energy Star Program at EPA that was eliminated in the President’s budget request but received 60% of last year’s funding in the House. At the time of this writing, neither bill is final and is awaiting floor action.
The Association’s advocacy takes many forms including sharing stories with congressional aids about how DOE helps advance energy savings and supports contractors and homeowners, to research papers, to testifying before the subcommittee on Energy and Water to tell members of the Committee directly about the real-world benefits of DOE’s energy efficiency programs.
Addressing Homeowner Upfront Cost Challenges
One of the barriers to homeowner investment in energy efficiency upgrades is the cost of the technology. The rationale for addressing those upfront costs is clear – homeowners are not only providing themselves a benefit (comfort and utility saving) but they are providing a public good (grid resilience and reliability, reduced air pollution, job creation) – thus HPC supports modest federal tax incentives or rebates to encourage investment in this public good with public dollars. This includes ongoing work with stakeholders and tax writing committees to advance legislative concepts and continued efforts to educate members of Congress about the importance of residential energy efficiency tax credits and rebates. HPC has been a lead advocate for a new performance-based tax credit, which has been introduced in each Congress since the 112th, and is currently included in S.1068 of this Congress.
Policy to Address Energy Efficiency
HPC advocates for authorizing legislation to promote and advance residential energy efficiency, including the SAVE Act, which has been included in the reintroduced Portman Shaheen bill (S.385), WAP/SEP reauthorization (with modifications), building codes language from the Portman Shaheen bill from the 114th Congress, Home Owner Managing Energy Savings (HOMES) Act, Residential Energy Efficiency Valuation (REEVA) Act, and Access to Consumer Energy Information (E-Access) Act. HPC has also been active in fighting S.838, which could effectively halt residential PACE.
More information aboutthe Association’s policy initiates can be found here.
Advancing New Approaches to Integrating Weatherization and Home Performance
One of the opportunities HPC has worked to advance is in creating a more unified set of cost-effective national residential energy efficiency programs for all income levels to uncover the untapped potential for residential energy efficiency. A unified plan for residential energy efficiency programs would build upon the lessons and strengths of the Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program and the lessons learned from home performance programs that are currently designed for all income levels. To that end, HPC issued a report, Weatherization and Home Performance: Recommendations for Mutual Success and Collaboration, March 2017, recommending steps to achieve greater collaboration between Weatherization and home performance programs that will, in addition to saving energy, create jobs, spur new efficiency technologies, and reduce the carbon footprint.
Fighting Climate Change
As energy efficiency is the quickest, cleanest, and cheapest means of addressing climate change, HPC has been on the forefront of ensuring that any federal climate change policies including residential energy efficiency in their plans. While this included submitting many rounds of comments to EPA on the Clean Power Plan rules, it also included the release of its groundbreaking report: A Policymaker’s Guide to Incorporating Existing Homes into Carbon Reduction Strategies and Clean Power Plan Compliance, which remains relevant as states choose to move forward with climate change policies as the report aims to help states incorporate home performance in their planning.
HPC recognizes that the next stage to a home’s energy efficiency is intelligence and has long-supported policies and programs that will help advance the “smart home”. HPC co-hosts bi-monthly conference calls with some 30-40 attendees comprised of NGOs, companies and labs to highlight new innovations in the smart home as part of the Home Energy Management Systems (HEMs) working group with NEEP. At the National Conference, HPC hosts a Smart Homes Track and also authors articles and reports, like Making Sense of the Smart Home, that offer policy ideas that would help encourage more smart homes such as access to utility data. HPC supports these policies at a national and state level.
A Word About the States
While this is just the tip of the iceberg tothe Association’s federal efforts to support residential home performance, we always remember that the states are often the nurseries of new policies where pilots teach policymakers. Working with the states is a key part of our work and A Policymaker’s Guide to Scaling Home Energy Upgrades was written by our team to assist state policymakers looking to advance home performance policies and initiatives.