Both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate on Thursday moved forward on legislation to improve energy efficiency in the United States.
The House passed a new program called "Home Star" that will help homeowners reduce their energy bills through energy efficiency investments and at the same time help provide sustainable jobs for construction workers.
The House bill establishes a new program that provides grants to homeowners for weatherizing their homes. Two paths are provided:
a "silver star" path that has $250-$1,500 incentives for a variety of specific energy saving measures, up to a maximum of $3,000 per home, and
a "gold star" path that provides incentives of $3,000-$8,000 per home for comprehensive packages of energy-saving measures (incentives increase as energy savings increase).
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that this bill will generate over 160,000 sustainable jobs and reduce consumer energy bills by more than $1 billion annually.
On the Senate side, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported out a set of amendments that adopt new consensus minimum efficiency standards on a variety of products.
The Senate bill adopts consensus minimum efficiency standards on residential air conditioners, furnaces and heat pumps, pole-mounted outdoor lights (e.g., street lights), drinking water dispensers, hot food holding cabinets (used to serve food in hospitals), and hot tubs. ACEEE estimates that after these standards have been fully implemented, they will save about as much energy annually as is now consumed by the state of Nebraska.
"Recent events at the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico and the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia show some of the significant human and environmental costs associated with our traditional energy sources," noted Steven Nadel, Executive Director of ACEEE. "We are happy to see both the House and Senate advancing legislation that will reduce the need for these traditional energy sources by promoting our cheapest and cleanest energy resource--energy efficiency," he continued.
The House effort has been led by Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Vern Ehlers (R-MI). The Senate effort has been led by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).