2020 Year-End Policy Update

2020 Year-End Policy Update

Much of BPA’s policy work in 2020 has been focused on industry response and recovery efforts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The work that goes on behind the scenes by our policy team, to educate lawmakers, advocate for funds, fight for jobs, and evaluate the effects of proposed legislation, is no small feat! As your voice in the industry, we feel it’s important to show you just how vital it is to engage and learn about legislation and programs that impact our work. So, let’s take a deep dive into the world of energy efficiency legislation and programs, both at the federal and state level.

Moving Energy Efficiency Forward at the Federal Level

At the federal level, BPA continued to closely monitor and engage with members of Congress on pandemic relief bills. In addition, we also actively continued work on numerous pieces of important legislation, including the following.

HOPE for HOMES Act – The HOPE for HOMES Act proposes $500 million to support online training for contractors, preparing them to significantly advance America’s existing home infrastructure through the $6 billion Home Energy Savings Rebate program. BPA continues to solicit signatures on grassroots support letters (receiving over 1,200 signatures) as well as support from other strategic allies. HOPE for HOMES was adopted by amendment to the INVEST in America Act, the House infrastructure package, and was passed by the House on July 1, 2020.

INVEST in America Act – Passed by the House on July 1, 2020, the bill includes many provisions championed by BPA, including the HOPE for HOMES Act as well as the original Blue Collar to Green Collar Jobs Act. INVEST in America also includes an extension and expansion of tax credits and reauthorizes and expands the Weatherization Assistance Program.

Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act – BPA engaged heavily with Hill staff during development of an energy infrastructure package. Passed by the House on September 24, 2020, the legislation combines a series of bills that would authorize new research, development, and demonstration initiatives at the Department of Energy (DOE) across each of DOE’s applied energy research programs and authorize new funding for electric vehicle infrastructure, energy efficiency programs, electric grid modernization, and environmental justice programs. Provisions and amendments championed by BPA include:

  • HOPE for HOMES, reauthorization and plus ups to the Weatherization Assistance Program, Blue Collar to Green Collar Jobs Act
  • Approximately $20 million in grants to develop energy workforce programs, training, and skill building
  • Amendment to allow grant funds for building efficiency and resiliency to be used to make an addition or alteration to, or to install, replace, or provide maintenance to, an air filtration and purification system of an HVAC system to help prevent the spread of COVID-19
  • Amendment to create a grant program to cover the cost of pre-apprenticeship programs and on-the-job training for jobs in EE and clean energy at national labs

Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) Appropriations – BPA continued to engage with Congressional staff in support of FY21 appropriations for key programs.

The Senate FY21 Energy and Water bill provides $2.84 billion for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, just slightly lower than the House recommendation of $2.85 billion, and still a $58 million increase from FY20.

Senate appropriators have included even more money for the Building Technologies Office than their House counterparts. Their funding for Residential Buildings Integration remains steady at $40 million, as does their funding for the State Energy Program at $62.5 million. They have given a slight increase to the Weatherization Assistance Program, in line with what House appropriators have recommended. The Senate Interior Environment appropriators also call for level funding of the Energy STAR program.

We were expecting level funding across the board due to the 2-year budget agreement dictating 2020 and 2021 spending levels, so the plus ups to BTO and WAP are notable.

Comparison chart of previous funding and current House proposal for our key programs:

Program

FY19 Enacted

FY20 Enacted

BPA FY21 Request

President’s Budget Request

House FY21 E&W

Senate FY21 E&W

Building Technologies Office

$226M

$285M

$300M

$94M

$285M

$295M

Residential Building Integration

$28M

$40M

$44M

NA

$40M

$40M

WAP

$254M + $3M

$308.5M

$310M

$500k

$310M

$310M

SEP

$55M

$62.5M

$90M

$500k

$65M

$62.5M

 

Tax Credits – BPA continued work on tax extenders (or tax breaks), including collaboration with industry stakeholders to include extensions in any infrastructure legislation. As mentioned above, Federal Tax Credit 25C is included in the INVEST in America Act (HR2). The credit is extended through 2025 and is expanded by:

  • Increasing the percentage of the credit for installing qualified energy efficiency improvements from 10% of the cost to 15%; and
  • Increasing the lifetime cap on credits allowed under this provision from $500 to $1,200 and restarting the lifetime limit beginning in 2021, and updating various standards and associated limits to reflect advances in energy efficiency and removing eligibility of roofs and advanced main air circulating fans.

Blue Collar to Green Collar Jobs Act – BPA continued work to promote the Blue Collar to Green Collar Jobs Act of 2019 and its bipartisan version Blue Collar and Green Collar Jobs Act, which includes a BPA-drafted grant program aimed at helping business owners, including those in the home performance industry, train employees to do advanced energy efficiency work. The grant program included in the bill applies to registered apprenticeship programs but grants are available for businesses—a key provision championed solely by BPA.

SAVE Act – BPA advocated strongly for inclusion of the SAVE Act in the GREEN Neighborhoods Act. The package, introduced in August 2020, includes the full SAVE Act. BPA worked closely with Hill staff to get the SAVE Act filed as an amendment, but the effort was unsuccessful due to opposition from consumer groups. BPA began engagement with consumer groups in an attempt to resolve issues surrounding SAVE. The SAVE Act continues to be included in full in the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act.

Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) Reauthorization – BPA continued engagement with industry stakeholders and congressional staff in ongoing negotiations regarding WAP reauthorizing legislation. Reauthorization is included in the CLEAN Future Act, the American Energy Innovation Act of 2020, INVEST in America Act, and Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act.

E-Access Act – The E-Access Act would support the adoption of best practices and policies to allow building owners to access and share their own electricity and natural gas data, helping advance energy efficiency and innovation to save energy and create cost savings for U.S. citizens and businesses. BPA continued work in support of data access legislation, including advocating for inclusion of E-Access bill into infrastructure/stimulus packages.

Moving Energy Efficiency Forward at the State Level

Even during the COVID Pandemic, BPA continued to work with state contractor organizations and state allies to move energy efficiency funding, innovative program development, and entrepreneurial opportunities forward in a wide variety of ways. We are grateful to our state partners for their collaborative efforts on the following initiatives.

State Contractor Advisory Committees – In one of the most encouraging developments in 2020, two states created technical advisory committees to gather contractor advice and input on energy efficiency program implementation. BPA encouraged the development of the Connecticut Contractor Technical Advisory Committee (CTAC) and the New York Residential Market Advisory Group (RMAG) and will continue to push other states to adopt this best practice in state program design. In 2020, BPA worked alongside state contractors in both NY and CT to advocate for COVID related program modifications to:

  • Support administrative follow up or emergency responses for existing customers;
  • Support for online professional training and certifications;
  • Continued funding for marketing for new customers;
  • Funding for Remote Energy Assessments or Virtual Pre-Assessments to help identify short term measures for implementation or facilitate future on site retrofits;
  • Redesign of post-COVID energy efficiency services for consumers; and
  • Increased reimbursements for protective equipment and safety measures.

Healthy Homes  One of the few positive developments that have resulted from the COVID pandemic is a dramatically increased awareness of the health benefits associated with improved indoor air quality in a retrofitted healthy home. BPA has continued to present at national and regional conferences on healthy homes pilot programs and best practices in states. These best practices include exciting new pilot projects in New York and Illinois that are seeking to capture the value of healthy home improvements with participation by state health and human service agencies, hospitals, utilities, and insurance companies. In addition, for the first time, BPA was asked to draft healthy home legislation in Connecticut, identifying a funding source for healthy home pilot projects, allowing for Medicaid program reimbursements for healthy home inspections and strengthening the training and certification of home performance contractors. The Connecticut proposal recognized the unique skills and contributions of home performance contractors to this exciting new area of policy interest in many states.

Cost Effectiveness Testing Reforms – On August 18, 2020, the National Efficiency Screening project released the final National Standard Practice Manual for Benefit-Cost Analysis of Distributed Energy Resources (NSPM for DERs). The NSPM for DERs provides a comprehensive framework and supporting concepts and guidance for sound, consistent, and balanced benefit-cost analysis (BCA) of DERs, including energy efficiency. BPA immediately got to work on state outreach on the NSPM for DERs by submitting comments in New Jersey and in other state proceedings that recommended the adoption of NSPM for DERs principles in state benefit cost analysis planning. In November, BPA presented on a panel for New Jersey and Pennsylvania stakeholders on the NSPM for DERs. BPA will continue to advocate for cost effectiveness testing reforms in 2021 by publishing articles, making presentations to state officials, and filing comments on state Public Utility proceedings.

Environmental Justice and Equity in EE – The COVID pandemic has also pressed states to begin to re-examining longer term questions such as how energy efficiency programs can better serve low income and minority communities. One example is the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (“DEEP”), which announced a formal “Equitable Energy Efficiency proceeding” which will undertake to “define equity in the context of the energy efficiency and load management programs within DEEP’s purview and expand the inclusion and participation of individuals in underserved communities, such as minorities, customers with limited incomes, veterans, and those who rent their homes.” The goal of this formal proceeding will be to identify barriers to equitable participation and the development of “metrics for tracking progress in addressing those barriers and measuring program outcomes and impacts from an equity perspective.”

BPA has been actively engaged with contractors and local stakeholders in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, and Illinois to develop reform proposals that will increase minority contractor and small business opportunities in low-income and underserved communities. The state contractor advisory committees (described above) in New York and Connecticut have proven to be valuable conduits for contractor input on environmental justice issues. BPA is actively working with contractors and members in other states to identify other opportunities to work towards a more equitable distribution of energy efficiency program funding in low income and underserved communities.

Pennsylvania Advocacy on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – In September 2020, BPA worked with local partners to support EE jobs and economic development in Pennsylvania by backing state efforts to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). BPA sought to educate stakeholders about the increased investments in energy efficiency and other clean energy technologies that joining RGGI could produce—creating more jobs when we need them the most. In December, BPA also testified before the PA Environmental Quality Board and emphasized that participating RGGI states have invested over half their proceeds into energy efficiency, generating over $4 billion in economic benefits. BPA will continue to monitor and promote clean energy initiatives like RGGI when state partners and members are engaged and request technical assistance.

Partnering with Regional Energy Efficiency Organizations – In 2020, BPA continued to work with regional energy efficiency organizations like the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) and the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) on advancing energy efficiency in the states. One collaboration with MEEA and NEEP included the “live state update” sessions of BPA’s Regional Home Performance Virtual Education Series. BPA presented jointly with MEEA and NEEP in two regional education sessions in October and November 2020, highlighting new and innovative state energy efficiency programs in the Midwest and Northeast Regions.

Defense Against Attacks on Energy Efficiency Program Funding - During 2020, BPA engaged in energy efficiency and clean energy budget defense in three states. The COVID shutdown prompted several large industrial firms to ask Utility Commissions in three states to immediately cut their utility bills and eliminate or reduce fees related to energy efficiency and clean energy program funding. These large users and business groups requested “extraordinary relief” from three state Utility Commissions to suspend the collection of system benefit charges for energy efficiency programs. BPA opposed these Petitions to slash EE funding. BPA’s position prevailed in Pennsylvania and no decision has been made in New York and Connecticut. BPA will continue to monitor events in NY and CT, and will continue to fight for EE funding for members in states where those funds are threatened. 

Workforce Development Initiative – BPA, with funding from the Department of Energy (DOE) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is preparing a workforce development (WFD) Needs Assessment, which will ultimately inform a WFD Education Plan designed to increase the flow of new workers as well as retain and upskill current workers in the residential retrofit home performance industry. The goal of this WFD project is to offer transformative industry resources to support and expand the residential retrofit professions, which BPA will be doing with an interactive online workforce development hub inclusive of training and career guidance. The hub is set to launch by early 2021.

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