Monday, April 5, 2010

Home Star Makes Progress

The Home Star program passed out of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee last Wednesday, and now moves to a full vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. On the Senate side, Homes Star was officially introduced, marking another important step in the regulatory process (S.3177). In the Senate, the Bill was sponsored by Democrat Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), but has already gained bipartisan support, with South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and Virginia Democrat Mark Warner signing on as cosponsors of the legislation.

The proposed biomass appliance provisions, which are still in draft form and not approved, have seen a number of changes by experts who Congress relies on, and many attempted changes. One of the biggest changes that is likely to be included is a smaller, $500 rebate for smaller wood and pellet stoves that do not have to meet 75% of a home’s heating needs. The full $1,000 rebate is still available for stoves that can meet 75% of a home’s heating needs. For both the smaller and larger rebate level, stoves must be certified by a third party to be at least 75% efficient.

Another major, positive potential change is that for woodstoves, the existing stove must be recycled and made inoperable. This will take old, uncertified wood stoves out of commission and prevent them from going on the second hand market.

Emission standards have also been proposed for pellet stoves, at no more than 2.5 grams per hour to be eligible for the rebate. Wood stoves must emit not more than 4.5 grams per hour. Outdoor boilers and furnaces may not emit more than 0.32 lbs/mmBTU which means they must be EPA Phase 2 qualified.

Many questions remain about the implementation of the program. How many consumers will take advantage of the rebates for biomass appliances? How many may not even learn about the program? Will the program mainly benefit the smaller specialty retailers or the big box stores? Big box stores will have no problem providing the $1,000 rebate at the cash register and this could be a burden for smaller retailers. HPBA is uniquely positioned to help the specialty hearth retailers prepare for this program. The Alliance for Green Heat will also be putting out regular updates to help consumers, retailers and manufacturers navigate this new program.

The rationale behind Home Star is that it will create incentives for American homeowners to quickly cut their monthly energy bills by 20 percent or more by improving the energy efficiency of their homes. It would establish a $6 billion rebate program over the next one to two years to encourage immediate investment in cost-effective energy efficient products and services as well as whole-home energy efficiency retrofits. The program would be facilitated and coordinated through existing state programs using federal standards and incentives as a common platform to keep program costs as low as possible. It could create thousands of construction jobs.

A follow on program, which also includes larger biomass systems, is Building Star, which also carries a $6 billion price tag. This does not have nearly the momentum that Home Star does and its even more unclear if or when it would become law. Below is a table of House and Senate bills compiled by the Center for American Progress that would push the country towards a more low-carbon economy.

House and Senate low-carbon economy proposals
Program Bill # Estimated cost
Clean Energy Deployment Administration S. 1462 $10 billion
HOME STAR Program S. 3177 $6 billion
Building STAR Program S. 3079 $6 billion
Investments for Manufacturing
Progress and Clean Technology Act
S. 1617 $30 billion
State and local energy efficiency programs (2012-20) H.R. 2454 $65 billion
Cash for Coal Clunkers n/a n/a
NAT GAS Act S. 1408 unspecified
Siting of Interstate Transmission Lines S. 1462 unspecified


$114 billion

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