The Administration and Congress are concerned about the high unemployment rate and are planning a significant jobs bill, to be enacted in spring 2010. The focus of the bill is creating jobs in 2010 and the bill will emphasize projects and programs that can begin quickly and start creating jobs within a few months of enactment. The bill is likely to have multiple components, a few of which relate to energy efficiency and creating “green jobs.” As of this writing, three major efficiency provisions are in development – residential retrofits, industrial and CHP efficiency grants, and commercial retrofits. Prospects for the first two provisions are promising; the third was developed later and its prospects are unclear. Some additional money may also go toward renovation of public housing, including efficiency improvements, and to replacement of inefficient manufactured homes.
The residential retrofit program has been titled Home Star. The White House and the press have sometimes also called it “Cash for Caulkers”. It includes:
- a comprehensive retrofit program targeting energy savings of at least 20% in each home and building on the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program now operating in 27 states, and
- a prescriptive program that provides incentives for specific energy efficiency improvements such as attic, wall, and crawlspace insulation, home and duct sealing to reduce infiltration and air leaks, and new high-efficiency furnaces, boilers, central air conditioners, water heaters, windows, and possibly appliances.
The industrial proposal will likely build upon a limited grant provision from ARRA that provided $156 million for industrial energy efficiency and CHP projects. The solicitation was heavily oversubscribed, with over $3 billion in proposals left unfunded. The jobs bill proposal will likely call for:
- Additional grant funding to be made available to the existing DOE ARRA program; and
- The provision of additional funding for the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program, which supports energy efficiency and competitiveness among small and medium sized enterprises (SME).
Total funding is unclear at this point. The White House has expressed support for including provisions to help industry (read more here [PDF]). A group of 30 leading trade associations, industrial firms, and NGOs have sent a letter [PDF] to the Senate supporting these and related provisions.
The commercial program concept is named Building Star and includes prescriptive rebates for specific HVAC, lighting, building shell, and control measures. The Senate bill has been introduced by Senators Merkley and Pryor. Details of the proposal can be found here [PDF].