More than 600,000 low-income US homes across the US and its territories have been “weatherized” and made more energy efficient thanks to the Dept. of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program and financial support from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , Dept. of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu announced in a joint conference call with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton Dec. 15. The milestone was reached three months ahead of an end-of-March, 2012 program schedule and includes weatherization of more than 125,000 multi-family homes, according to DOE’s news release.
The program’s aim is to create community jobs, conserve energy and reduce home utility bills, and it’s doing just that — in less time than originally projected. Weatherization program improvements made so far — upgrading insulation, air-sealing, and installing more-efficient heating and cooling systems — reduces energy consumption for low-income families up to 35%, which is expected to yield a savings of more than $400 per household on heating and cooling bills in the first year alone. In total, it’s estimated that weatherization of the 600,000 homes will save low-income residents more than $320 million in energy costs in just the first year.
“Today the Department of Energy marks a major milestone: we have weatherized more than 600,000 low-income homes and put thousands of people to work through the Recovery Act,” Secretary Chu said during the conference call.
“Across America, DOE’s successful Weatherization Assistance Program has increased the demand for energy-saving products and services, created thousands of skilled jobs, and helped families to reduce energy waste and save money.”
Clean Energy Triple Whammy
Realization of the Weather Assistance Program’s goals yields significant economic and environmental benefits, the DOE points out. The financial system remains fragile and gains in job creation have been hard to come by since the 2008-2009 recession ended, while the spiraling costs of continuing to increase our greenhouse gas emission becomes more evident almost every day.
The Weatherization Assistance Program addresses both these challenges. Weatherizing low-income homes has created jobs here at home that cannot be outsourced for many of the tradespeople — carpenters, electricians, etc. — hardest hit by the housing crash. It also results in significant reductions in the amount low-income citizens pay for essential energy services.
On top of these benefits are considerable environmental benefits. Buildings account for nearly 40% of US energy consumption and carbon emissions. The energy efficiency and conservation upgrades realized through the Weatherization Assistance program’s retrofits reduces energy use and reduces carbon emissions.
US Homes & Buildings Energy Efficiency/Conservation Initiatives
The DOE’s efforts to conserve energy and make US residential, commercial, and industrial buildings more energy efficient is ongoing. The DOE outlines its ongoing initiatives:
The Better Buildings Neighborhood Program is working with hundreds of neighborhoods across the country to promote energy efficiency upgrades in homes and buildings. The partners are making it easier for homes and business owners to access energy efficiency experts and complete building upgrades while supporting a growing energy improvement workforce.
With the Better Buildings Challenge, sixty major companies, universities, hospitals, retailers and cities and states are stepping up to upgrade 1.6 billion square feet of commercial and industrial space by 2020, and organizations have committed nearly $2 billion of private capital to finance energy efficient projects.
The Home Energy Score pilot program offers homeowners straightforward, reliable information about their homes’ energy efficiency. Under this voluntary program, trained and certified contractors use a standardized assessment tool developed by DOE to quickly evaluate a home and generate useful, actionable information for homeowners or prospective home buyers.
The Department of Energy is developing voluntary Workforce Guidelines for Home Energy Upgrades, a comprehensive set of guidelines for workers in the residential energy efficiency industry. The guidelines help build and expand the skills of the workforce, ensuring the quality of the work performed, while laying the foundation for a more robust worker certification and training program nationwide.
And to improve access to financing, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has stepped in and launched the PowerSaver pilot program, partnering with eighteen national, regional and local lenders to offer qualified borrowers low-cost loans to make energy-saving improvements to their homes. These PowerSaver loans offer homeowners up to $25,000 to make energy-efficient improvements of their choice, including the installation of insulation, duct sealing, replacement doors and windows, HVAC systems, water heaters, solar panels, and geothermal systems.
DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy invests in clean energy technologies that strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. Learn more about DOE’s effort to enable low-income families to permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient.
I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.