Several House members today introduced legislation creating Home Star, a measure designed to spur employment by giving tax rebates for energy retrofits of homes.
Among the bill's sponsors are Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass.; Peter Welch, D-Vt.; Vern Ehlers, R-Mich.; and Denis Cardoza, D-Calif. In addition, National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) president Michael O'Brien spoke at a news conference touting the bill's introduction. In prepared remarks, O'Brien said incentives for energy-efficient home improvements as proposed in the bill "can be a powerful tool to drive consumer purchases that in turn will lead to the restoration and creation of American jobs across the building supply chain while producing significant energy savings for our nation." But he said it is imperative that Home Star's rebate program "work as effectively and efficiently as possible to ensure that companies of all sizes and in all markets are able to participate in and benefit from the program. We appreciate the work undertaken thus far and look forward to working ... to ensure the final bill is as strong as possible."
Home Star enjoys considerable support. The Obama Administration first proposed it, Senate. Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., is lead sponsor for the Senate version of the bill; and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, has signed on as a lead sponsor of the House version. In addition, Markey is chairman of the Energy & Commerce subcommittee on energy and the environment, so the measure is likely to be acted on quickly. (April 15 update: The full committee approved the bill today by a 30-17 votes, NLBMDA reports.)
Home Star authorizes up to $6 billion worth of tax rebates for the installation of energy-efficient products. According to a text of the Senate version of the bill, Home Star authorizes two retrofit programs: Silver Star, which focuses on the installation of particular products; and Gold Star, in which rebates go to retrofits that achieve energy savings for the whole home.
Silver Star's rebates go to measures such as: sealing off air leakage between the attic and the conditioned space; adding at least R-19 insulation to existing insulation; achieving insulation levels of at least R-38 in warmer areas and at least R-49 in colder parts of the United States; replacing or sealing ducts; replacing doors and windows with certified energy-saving products; and installing storm windows on windows that don't currently have them.
Rebates generally top out at $1,500 per measure and $3,000 for all projects.
Gold Star focuses on whole-home energy savings. It will give a $3,000 rebate for a 20% reduction in the whole home's energy consumption, and an extra $1,000 (up to $8,000) for each extra 5% reduction.
While independent LBM groups generally like the idea behind Home Star, they have paid attention to the language regarding how rebates are administered. Generally, they've fought scenarios that would give an advantage to big retailers like The Home Depot and Lowe's while making certain that the rebates get paid quickly, in contrast to the complaints that arose from auto dealers regarding the "cash for clunkers" program. The bill calls for the creation of a network of Home Star rebate agggregators that would pay rebates within 30 days of request.