Senate committee discusses merits of HOME STAR

Authors: Megan Emiko Scott Today the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee held a hearing on HOME STAR, a proposed program to create jobs through energy efficiency improvements in residential buildings. HOME STAR will create tens of thousands of much-needed jobs in building construction and building-related manufacturing sectors while reducing energy bills for consumers and positively impacting the environment. Senator Bingaman (D-NM), the ENR Committee Chair, began the hearing with a reminder that buildings account for nearly 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (2006 figure). Numerous studies show that energy efficiency is among the most cost effective ways to reduce these emissions. Along with Senator Warner (D-VA), Senator Bingaman is a key champion for HOME STAR. In addition to widespread support from diverse members of the HOME STAR Coalition, Senator Warner mentioned that HOME STAR boasts industry support from the National Association of Manufacturers and the Edison Electrical Institute, as well as bipartisan engagement from Senator Graham (R-SC). Witnesses included representatives from the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and a variety of stakeholder groups related to energy efficient building. Catherine Zoi, the Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE, testified about the urgent need and opportunity for HOME STAR. According to Zoi, there are 130 million homes in the U.S., 90 percent of which are un- or under-insulated. This is bad for the environment and consumers’ wallets. At the same time, the construction sector currently faces a 27 percent unemployment rate, three times the overall unemployment rate. HOME STAR will address all of these problems at once: it is a triple win that will create jobs, generate consumer savings, and positively impact the environment. Yesterday’s hearing also addressed two additional proposals related to job creation through energy efficiency: - The Building Star Energy Efficiency Act of 2010 (S.3079), introduced by Senators Merkley (D-OR) and Pryor (D-AR), is similar to HOME STAR but targeted toward commercial buildings. Building Star would offer rebates for up to 30 percent of the cost of upgrades to energy-related equipment including energy audits, lighting, energy management and insulation for commercial buildings. - The Energy Efficient Manufactured Housing Act of 2009 (S.1320), introduced by Senator Tester (D-MT), would provide up to $7,500 in rebates for an Energy Star-qualified manufactured home for a low-income household. The House of Representatives is expected to hold a hearing in the coming weeks. We are collecting testimony to share at the hearing, and enter into the Congressional record. Please tell Congress why it should enact HOME STAR. In particular we are seeking personal testimonies from people who work in the weatherization and construction sectors. Watch a video of the hearing here.

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