Obama Unveils Homestar Plan

March 2, 2010
Government

If passed into law, the government will offer rebates for windows and doors under the new Homestar program, officially unveiled by President Obama today.  Also known as Cash for Caulkers, the plan designed to help create jobs by encouraging American families to invest in energy-saving home improvements. The president outlined Homestar during a visit to a training facility at Savannah Technical College in Savannah, Ga., where he was joined by a number of insulation manufacturers and efficiency contractors.

The White House proposal, designed to be consisent with a Senate Democratic leadership proposal offered earlier this month, consists of consumer rebates like those offered by the government under the Cash for Clunkers program, quality assurance measures and funding for states to support the program. As outlined on the White House Web site, the plan would allow an array of vendors—from small independent building material dealers, large national home improvement chains, energy efficiency installation professionals and utility energy efficiency programs—to market and provide rebates directly to consumers and then be reimbursed by the federal government.

 


"Now, these are big incentives. And you'd get these rebates instantly from the hardware store or the contractor. So if you went to Lowe's or Home Depot or wherever you went, right there when you paid at the cash register you'd get that money. You wouldn't have to mail in a long form, wait for a check to arrive months later."

- President Obama in Savannah speech
(See full transcript)

 

Said to carry a $6 billion price tag, the plan includes Silver Star rebates for consumers looking to have simple upgrades performed in their homes. Consumers would be eligible for 50 percent rebates of up to $1,000 - $1,500 for doing any of a straightforward set of upgrades, including windows and doors. Silver Star would allow  consumers to choose a combination of upgrades for rebates up to a maximum of $3,000 per home. Rebates would be limited to the most energy efficient categories of upgrades—focusing on products made primarily in the United States and installed by certified contractors.

The White House proposal also includes Gold Star rebates for consumers interested in more comprehensive energy retrofits. They would be eligible for a $3,000 rebate for a whole home energy audit and subsequent retrofit tailored to achieve a 20 percent energy savings in their homes, and could  receive additional rebate amounts for energy savings in excess of 20 percent. Gold Star would build on existing whole home retrofit programs, like EPA’s Home Performance with Energy Star program.

Oversight measures in the White House plan would require that "contractors be certified to perform efficiency installations." Independent quality assurance providers would conduct field audits after work is completed to ensure proper installation so consumers receive energy savings from their upgrades. The Administration is looking for states to oversee the implementation of quality assurance to ensure that the program was moving the industry toward more robust standards and comprehensive energy retrofit practices.

Finally, the White House plan calls for support to state and local governments to provide financing options for consumers seeking to make efficiency investments in their homes. "The program will result in the creation of tens of thousands of jobs while achieving substantial reductions in energy use–the equivalent of the entire output of three coal-fired power plants each year," according to the White House. "Consumers in the program are anticipated to save between $200 - $500 per year in energy costs, while improving the comfort and value of their homes."

"Here's one of the best things about energy efficiency," Obama noted in introducing the plan. "It turns out that energy-efficient windows or insulation, those things are products that are almost exclusively manufactured right here in the United States of America. It's very hard to ship windows from China. So a lot of these materials are made right here in America."

Discussing the costs of the program, Obama stated, "Just like a responsible homeowner will invest in their homes in the near term to fortify their economic security in the long term, we’ve got to do the same as a country. It will have some costs on the front end-you buy a new boiler, or you get some insulation, or you get some new windows, that's going to have an initial cost, and the same is true from a government perspective. And it’s going to be politically difficult to do some of this, but it’s what’s right to plan for our future."

"We applaud the efforts of the administration to introduce a jobs creations program that is truly a win-win-win," said Larry Laseter, the president of Masco Home Services who joined President Obama at the Georgia event to discuss the program and its benefits for jobs, consumers and the environment. "The HomeStar program will put our nation's skilled construction force back to work, benefit homeowners through comfort and energy efficient improvements to their existing homes, and result in long term energy efficiency gains. We urge Congress to approve this program so that Americans can get back to work."

The National Association of Home Builders issued a release commending Obama's proposal later in the day.  "This has the potential to be a real shot in the arm for the home building industry," said Bob Jones, NAHB chairman and a builder and developer in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. "It will help put America back to work and it will help families save on monthly energy bills."