Imagining a world where HOPE for HOMES passes? We are.
Macie Melendez, Editor in Chief, Building Performance eJournal

This past year, in continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the Building Performance Association’s federal policy work remained on industry response and recovery efforts. BPA continued to closely monitor and engage with members of Congress on pandemic relief bills.

But BPA also actively continued work on numerous pieces of important legislation, including the HOPE for HOMES Act. Introduced in the House and Senate, the bill has bipartisan support and offers a two-pronged approach to support online contractor training and fuel re-hiring while providing incentives to homeowners to invest in energy efficiencies in their homes. More specifically, HOPE for HOMES provides $500 million to support online training for contractors and $6 billion for the HOMES Act rebate program for residential retrofits.

As we enter a new year with progress in mind, we wanted to know what our industry could look like if just one of the pieces of legislation we’ve championed came to fruition. Let’s take a theoretical look at how the HOPE for HOMES Act, if passed, would advance energy efficiency.

Key Points

Let’s quickly look at what exactly the HOPE for HOMES Act of 2020 could provide. It could:

  • Create rebates for homeowners to invest in energy efficiency improvements, including:
    • $800 to add insulation to their home,
    • $1,500 for adding insulation and replacing part of their HVAC system,
    • $2,000 for retrofits that lead to savings of 20-40% of whole-house energy use,
    • $4,000 for retrofits that save at least 40% of whole-house energy use, and
    • Doubling the rebate amount for moderate income families.
  • Authorize $500 million in grants to help develop training curriculums and assist companies in providing financial incentives to contractors to undertake online training to advance their capabilities to efficiently retrofit homes.
  • Provide $1,000 per employee rehired, up to $10,000 total, to contracting companies willing to cover the costs of training and technology upgrades needed to achieve online learning.
  • Provide a $1,000 stipend to contractors who complete the HOPE Training and are prepared to advance their careers and help homeowners with home retrofits.

What does all of this translate to in the real world?

Jobs Creation and Support

Let’s look at jobs first. HOPE for HOMES could both create new jobs and support those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic (which is more than 320,000 just in the energy efficiency sector, according to E4TheFuture and E2’s recent Energy Efficiency Jobs in America report).

The Contractor Home On-line Performance-based Energy-efficiency (HOPE) Training would provide immediate support to contractor businesses, with $500 million to help companies pay their contractors to undertake online training to advance their understanding of home performance.

HOPE provides a stipend for contractors who complete the HOPE Training and are prepared to advance their careers and help homeowners save energy and money through home retrofits. These stipends would act as a lifeline as well as a pathway to participate in the Home Owner Managing Savings (HOMES) program once the pandemic subsides. Because the training is available online, contractors from all states would have access to these courses and would be able to invest in workforce development.

HOPE is paired with a $6 Billion Home Owner Managing Savings (HOMES) rebate program, to be authorized through 2025. The HOMES program would provide rebates to homeowners who undertake energy efficiency home retrofits, thereby supporting contractor small businesses who are providing energy efficiency products and installations for their customers. HOMES rebates are the reason contractor companies will risk retaining or rehiring employees, because the rebate program would be available as the country modifies social distancing requirements.

In an American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, or ACEEE, analysis of several proposed energy efficiency investments, they found that with a $4.7 billion federal investment, HOPE for HOMES could:

  • Create 42,000 jobs through 2023; and
  • Create 85,000 jobs total.

It would also create a vital stimulus—encouraging homeowners to undertake energy retrofits of their homes and driving demand for these highly trained workers. This will result in the creation of local jobs that cannot be outsourced, and a massive upgrade to this nation’s residential housing stock.

This aligns with President-elect Joe Biden’s plans to upgrade 4 million buildings and weatherize 2 million homes over 4 years, which his website claims will create at least 1 million good-paying jobs with a choice to join a union.

The HOMES rebate program would create incentives for homeowners to invest in energy efficiency improvements through a multi-part rebate program to support states with a diversity of building stock, energy program expertise, and contractor workforce skills and help these states to advance the efficiency, health, and safety of their residences.

The HOMES program will also spur the creation of important jobs in contracting, manufacturing, and retail sales of energy efficient technologies and products. Contracting jobs are inherently local, and many will be provided by small business contractors. The HOPE for HOMES Act would support these small businesses and local job creation across the country during a time of urgent need.

Energy and Financial Savings

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs (or an average of 11% on total energy costs) by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces, and accessible basement rim joists.

In their analysis, ACEEE also analyzed the likely energy saved and carbon emissions avoided from several proposed energy efficiency investments, including HOPE for HOMES. Here’s what they found.

With a $4.7 billion federal investment, HOPE for HOMES could:

  • Avoid 58 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, and
  • Save $9.6 billion in energy costs.

graph of hope for homes investments

Environmental & Health Benefits

At the most basic level, energy efficiency is good for individual homes, communities, and the planet. Energy efficiency uses less energy to get the same job done. Cutting back on energy consumption reduces the amount of electricity that power plants have to make, subsequently reducing the amount of fossil fuels that are burned each day. Even the smallest change can make a big difference. If every American household traded in just one incandescent light bulb for an efficient CFL, the reduction in pollution would be equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the road.

In those same households, basic energy efficiency improvements, such as air sealing and adding insulation, can create healthier living environments. Health-related outcomes include improved general health, reductions in some asthma symptoms, fewer cases of hypertension and upper respiratory risks, and some improvements in indoor air quality contaminants.

Enhanced energy efficiency upgrades have been shown to reduce indoor air contaminants linked to chronic illnesses, control environmental contaminants (dust mites, mold/moisture) that can trigger respiratory symptoms, and improve symptoms of asthma and other respiratory health conditions.

In other words, healthier homes equals healthier occupants.

Long-term Recovery

As detailed in E4TheFuture and E2’s most recent Energy Efficiency Jobs in America report, energy efficiency is a proven catalyst for broad economic recovery.  In their report, they showed a model of a robust stimulus package for retrofits of existing buildings that illustrated how a stimulus would create jobs, save money, reduce energy dependence and spur economic growth, all while reducing pollution and climate emissions. That information is shown below.

chart showing federal stimulus results

While their modeled stimulus is significantly larger—at $61 billion—the numbers are still relevant. The HOPE for HOMES Act looks to invest $500 million in contractors and $6 billion in homeowner rebates. If you take just one of the numbers above and use the same mathematical model, the numbers are significant.

Let’s take energy bill savings. Instead of $61 billion, let’s look at $6 billion—using the E4TheFugure model, the HOPE for HOMES Act would save approximately $3.2 billion in energy bills annually.

Looking Toward 2021

While this article is based on the hypothetical scenario that the HOPE for HOMES Act is enacted by law, it’s not necessarily a pipe dream. BPA has been working for months to ensure a future for our members and our industry as a whole, but the fight isn’t over yet. Join us by adding your name to our grassroots support letter so we can continue showing and building support for this important bill.

And, if you so desire, consider donating to our policy efforts here.

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