Home Star Advances as Part of New Senate Bill--Update

August 4, 2010

Already passed by the House of Representatives, Home Star legislation advanced in the Senate last week as part of the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act. Introduced by Majority Leader Sen. Henry Reid (D-Nev.), the bill represents a stripped-down energy bill with additional elements designed to address the Gulf oil spill. 

Senate Democrats hoped it could be passed before Congress's August recess. Yesterday, however, they found they could not muster a filibuster-proof majority.  Now, they are looking to bring the legislation back in September.

Applauding inclusion of Home Star in the bill, the Alliance to Save Energy says the program, which offers rebates to homeowners who make energy efficiency home improvements, could create as many as 168,000 American construction jobs over the next two years.

Like the House version of Home Star passed in May, the Senate bill would provide rebates to homeowners who retrofit their homes with energy-efficient equipment and materials, including windows, doors and skylights, as well as insulation, heating and cooling equipment and other products. The legislation would create two rebate programs. The first, Silver Star, is targeted at specific improvements, and would offer rebates of up to $3,000 per home. The second, Gold Star, would offer up to $8,000 per home for whole-house reductions in energy use.

Under the Silver Star program, eligle improvements include:

  • Window replacement that address at least eight exterior windows, or 75 percent of the exterior windows in a home, whichever is less, with windows that are: 1) certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council; and 2) comply with criteria applicable to windows under section 25(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
  • Door replacement that replaces at least one exterior door with products that comply with criteria applicable to doors under the 2010 Energy Star specification for doors.
  • Skylight replacement that replaces at least one skylight with products that comply with criteria applicable to skylights under the 2010 Energy Star specification for skylights.

Noteworthy in those requirements are the use of the .30/.30 criteria established for window tax credits under the American Recovery and Restoration Act, as is the case in the House version of Home Star. 

"Home Star is good policy, but even better practicality in its ability to deliver a triple win for America—it creates clean energy jobs for our nation's skilled construction workers and at U.S. manufacturing facilities, it benefits homeowners through comfort and energy efficient improvements to their homes, and it helps the environment through long-term energy efficiency gains," said Larry Laseter, president of WellHome, representing the Home Star Coalition at a press conference with Senate leadership.  "I'm honored to represent the more than 2,600 members of the Home Star Coalition and the millions of families across America that will benefit from this important bi-partisan legislation."

"I am a second-generation insulation contractor with branch operations in Arizona, Nevada and California," added Jeff Banker of Banker Insulation in Phoenix, Ariz., and president of the Insulation Contractors Association of America, also represented at the conference. "Passage of the Home Star legislation would enable our family-owned business to hire contractors in all of our locations. I urge the Senate to please help small businesses across America by passing Home Star."

When initially introduced in the Senate, Home Star enjoyed bi-partisan support with more than 30 co-sponsors.  It also has the support of a broad range of business and environmental groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.

The fate of the current Home Star bill remains unclear. Sen. Reid had hoped the legislation could get through the Senate quickly, but decided against bringing it forward for a vote yesterday after it failed to get Republican support and was also opposed by some Democrats from oil states. Senate Democrats are now looking at further compromise efforts and bringing the legislation forward again in September.