$6.2 billion for energy improvements to homes of low-income families
WASHINGTON, DC — The economic stimulus bill passed this week by the U.S. House of Representatives proposes a huge increase in spending for the Weatherization Assistance Program. The House bill includes $6.2 billion in weatherization funding. Since the funds are intended to be spent over three years, the funding would amount to nine times last year’s spending of $227.4 million. All eyes are now focused on the Senate, which is expected to pass its own version of the economic stimulus bill soon.
Since 1976, the US Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program has provided energy retrofit work for the homes of low-income families at no charge. Such work typically includes air-tightening measures, insulation upgrades, and HVAC system improvements. Every dollar invested in the program yields $1.65 in energy savings for low-income families.
According to BusinessWeek.com, the sudden increase in weatherization funds would be “so large that federal, state, and local agencies are expected to find allocating them and conducting sufficient oversight a real challenge. … Industry insiders (who don’t want to go on record criticizing the package) are doubtful that the new funds will be dispersed in a smart and timely manner — state and local agencies, they say, just can’t ramp up fast enough.”
However, Robert DeSoto, DOE’s weatherization project manager, is confident that the program can handle a sudden influx of funding. DeSoto envisions an increase in the maximum spending per house from $3,055 to $5,000 and an increase in the maximum income level for eligible families.
The BusinessWeek.com article noted that weatherization is “low-hanging fruit for the fight against climate change — the technology is widely available (insulation, more efficient building materials), unlike many forms of clean power generation that are still too expensive or still in the development phase.”