As winter approaches and the war in Ukraine rages on, Americans are bracing for rising electricity and gas bills. Because of that, along with extreme temperatures and volatile weather spurred by climate change, many Americans are looking to increase energy efficiency in their homes. However, this was not always easy or affordable. Fortunately, just in time, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a range of policy responses that will help ease the burden for Americans at an event in Boston last week.
So what was announced and how will it affect you?
A much-needed boost for low-income families
First comes an answer to the calls of our allies, the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) and the National Alliance for Energy Affordability and Utilities (NEUAC), as America’s Rescue Plan aid increases and energy costs rise. Specifically, Harris announced a necessary expansion of energy assistance for low-income families, with $4.5 billion going to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This funding – which will go to states, territories and tribes – will help lower heating costs for American families this winter, cover unpaid utility bills, and perhaps most importantly, help families make cost-effective home energy repairs done to lower their heating and cooling. bills for the long run. LIHEAP provides assistance to more than six million low-income households and even supports weatherization services to increase building energy efficiency and reduce utility costs.
In addition, the administration announced nearly $9 billion in state and tribal allocations from the historic Inflation Reduction Act to make homes more energy efficient, supporting up to 1.6 million families nationwide to upgrade homes and apartments to lower energy bills. Home upgrades will help keep bills down beyond the scope of aid that can be covered. When added to the increase in Weatherization Assistance Program funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, that will fulfill President Joe Biden’s promise to weatherize two million homes.
What’s that about heat pumps and retrofitting?
A new, highly efficient technology, heat pumps are now a hot topic among energy pros, but the average person may still be unaware. However, heat pumps deserve more public attention for the many benefits they offer to customers. People who replace their heating and cooling systems with heat pumps will save more than a third of their home’s energy use and hundreds of dollars every year. And communities will benefit from the greenhouse gas reductions and all the good jobs that come from building and installing them. Fortunately, the White House announced a major investment of $250 million to enable more heat pump manufacturing in America.
In addition, $260 million from the Inflation Reduction Act and the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Act will go directly to workforce development programs, supporting good-paying jobs with building retrofits. Retrofitting existing buildings makes them healthier and more energy efficient and can be an important tool to combat climate change. It’s also an opportunity to target climate justice in our housing policies, as my colleague Sabrina Johnson writes about here. NRDC’s Elevate and Relay network of allies will use funding from these programs to train and hire partners for such work, committed to electrifying thousands of affordable housing units and training more than 100 women, people of color, and veteran clean energy contractors in partnership with heat pump. manufacturers.
Onward in big and exciting investments
Finally, Harris highlighted the Environmental Protection Agency’s new $27 billion Environmental Protection Agency Fund, which is intended to mobilize funding for clean energy and climate projects that will reduce emissions. Funding like this can have a huge impact in helping us achieve our climate goals; it is also important to ensure that environmental justice communities reap the benefits. And we all have an opportunity to shape the deployment and distribution of those funds by participating in public engagement opportunities, including a national listening session on November 9 and a public request for information, which seeks written comments through December 5 ( click here to provide your advice and ideas).
Overall, these announcements should renew excitement about the two historic laws passed by Congress and signed by the president in the past year: the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.
With those reservations in place, we can write some of the best chapters in history for clean and affordable energy and healthy housing. Let’s work together to make the most of all the opportunities that lie ahead.
This post was written in collaboration with my NRDC colleague, Sarah Street.