Energy Department Rolls Out $3.16 Billion for Residential Energy Retrofits
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy is accepting applications from states, tribes and territories for a share of $3.16 billion in new funding through the agency’s residential energy retrofit program.
The expanded funding for the DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program is a byproduct of the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year.
According to administration officials, the retrofit funding is designed to address the “whole home” and includes paying for the installation of insulation, updating heating and cooling systems, upgrading electrical appliances and taking other common-sense actions that will make homes warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
“This massive investment is going to help families afford physical improvements to their homes like switching to better insulation and ventilation, installing energy efficient heating and cooling systems, upgrading lighting and appliances,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning.
“For some people these may seem like small changes, but actually they make a very big and immediate impact, saving families hundreds to thousands of dollars per year – and results in between 20% to 30% in annual savings for most people,” she continued.
“And these savings especially add up for low income Americans who might spend up to 30% of their paychecks on energy to begin with,” she said, adding, “It’s not just about money. It is also about health.
“Weatherizing a home means less exposure to the elements. It means fewer colds and headaches. And it means fewer doctor’s visits and trips to the hospital,” she added.
Granholm went on to stress that these statements weren’t hypothetical.
“The Weatherization Assistance Program has a very long, proven track record of improving people’s lives,” she said. “We’ve served over 7 million households through this program since 1976. It currently retrofits about 38,000 homes per year. But this additional amount will allow us to do over 450,000 homes per year — that is just a huge increase.”
In addition to its immediate practical benefits, the new funding is another step in the administration’s efforts to create a net zero emissions economy by 2050.
In addition, the program also implements the president’s Justice40 commitment, which aims to ensure that federal agencies deliver at least 40% of benefits from certain investments to underserved communities.
“The expansion of the Weatherization Assistance Program really makes it a stronger savings program, a stronger jobs program and a stronger climate program,” said White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy.
“Every project under the program starts with a comprehensive energy audit, with which they’re analyzing the building inside and out to find the very best ways to make each home healthier and more efficient,” she said.
“That can lead to the installation of things like better insulation, or sealing leaks. And you know what that means? It means lower energy bills. And it means homes that are safer and healthier, because they’re more resilient against intensifying climate threats, like super storms and extreme temperatures.
“And the Weatherization Assistance Program is also amped up right now to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies, things like electric heat pumps that provide better indoor air quality, and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions … upgrading lighting and home appliances like fridges and stoves, with more energy efficient models … and in ways that make homes ready for broader upgrades, like installing solar panels,” she said.
McCarthy went to say an additional benefit is that all the work performed under the program is done by local providers.
“That means it’s a huge job creator and that’s why we’re supporting training partnerships with unions and trade schools and community organizations so that folks don’t just have an opportunity to get a job, but they can launch real careers.
“And we’re focusing on environmental justice as well, in all of this work, because we’re going to be prioritizing investments in low income communities, as well as communities of color that are really so long overdue for more healthy and resilient housing.”
Wednesday’s announcement expands these weatherization services to 10 times the current funding levels, creating jobs, and reestablishing economic opportunities in communities that have been hit the hardest by economic, racial and environmental injustices.
Dan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.