White House Unveils Plan to Increase Home Retrofit Activity

October 19, 2009

Vice President Biden unveiled Monday Recovery Through Retrofit, a plan designed to expand green job opportunities and boost energy savings by making homes more energy efficient. He was joined by Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy; Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor; Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; and other White House officials, in announcing the initiative, which includes provisions to establish a home energy rating system and make financing for home retrofits more readily available.

"Recovery Through Retrofit is a blueprint that will create good green jobs–jobs that can’t be outsourced, and jobs that will be the cornerstones of a 21st-Century economy," said Vice President Biden. "And, thanks to the Recovery Act’s unprecedented investments in energy efficiency, we are making it easier for American families to retrofit their homes–helping them save money while reducing carbon emissions and creating a healthier environment for our families."

Specifically, the plan calls for the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to develop "a standardized home energy performance measure applicable to every home in America. This measure will make it much easier for consumers to understand how much they can save by retrofitting their home. It will also give lenders the information they need to work with homeowners who are looking to invest in home energy improvements," the report states.

On the financing front, the plan calls for Federal agencies to work with state and local governments to increase access to property tax or municipal energy financing that allows the costs of retrofits to be added to a homeowner’s property tax bill, with monthly payments generally lower than utility bill savings. Additionally, the government will work to expand the use of energy efficient mortgages will simplify the process of obtaining and financing energy retrofits at a home’s point-of-sale. Finally, the government will look to expand state revolving loan funds from 16 states to all 50 states to leverage private capital and achieve economies of scale necessary to produce consistent and affordable loan products.

The White House initiative also includes plans to develop "a uniform set of national standards to qualify energy efficiency and retrofit workers and industry training providers." 

"I am proud to join my colleagues today in announcing Recovery through Retrofit," said Secretary Donovan at the event, which took place at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. "It will allow us to work closely together to remove barriers to creating more energy efficient homes for American families. This initiative will not only lead to cost savings for homeowners and reduce negative environmental impact, but will also be a powerful vehicle for economic recovery by creating quality middle class jobs and lasting neighborhood benefits. This is another demonstration of HUD's commitment to creating jobs for the new economy in high growth industries by encouraging and investing in green building and energy retrofits."

"As Secretary of Labor I'm working to help build the clean energy economy of tomorrow by investing in our workers today," said Secretary Solis. "Training for green jobs can empower workers to climb the career ladder, sustain a family and provide a secure retirement. Through Recovery through Retrofit, we're committing to meet the needs of workers, employers and homeowners, so we can shape our clean energy future into one that supports working families and is inclusive of the diversity of our nation."

In conjunction with the announcement, the Department of Energy announced it would spend $454 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for energy efficiency efforts nationwide. It is now accepting applications for a new $390 million "Retrofit Ramp-Up" program that will deploy innovative approaches to energy efficiency building retrofits. DOE is looking to create new partnerships to bring energy retrofits to whole neighborhoods at a time to simplify the process for homeowners and significantly reduce costs.

"The Retrofit Ramp-Up initiative is designed to slice through the barriers identified in this report– inconvenience, lack of information, and lack of financing–and to make energy efficiency easy and accessible to all," said Secretary Chu. "We want to make our communities more energy efficient, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood—eventually expanding to entire cities and states. We can literally bring energy efficiency to the doorsteps of the American people."

According to a White House blog related to the announcement, an inter-agency Energy Retrofit Working Group will come back to the Vice President in 30 days with a full implementation plan for the Recovery through Retrofit inititive.  The group will continue to meet and report on the plan's progress.