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Earn Free EF Membership with The Home Depot Program

by Tom

Register for EF's Home Depot program at www.efficiencyfirst.org/homedepot and earn free membership and other discounts.

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Categories: News

It's our membership drive -- new members get $75 off!

by Coby

 Now's the time to consider joining Efficiency First! Join by Feb 12 and you'll save $75. Visit www.efficiencyfirst.org/join and use the code Happy2016.

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Categories: News  |  Membership Drive

Attacks on Energy Codes

The US House Energy and Commerce Committee is considering language for a comprehensive energy bill, and it's important the final bill doesn't include provisions that would weaken building energy codes.

Background

Earlier this year, Efficiency First joined with stakeholders from the public and private sectors on a letter opposing a proposal from Congresswoman Blackburn and Congressman Schrader that would hamper the Department of Energy's ability to advance building energy codes in states and localities. The proposal had been included in Title IV of the House's proposed energy bill. 

Why is this an important issue? Among other items:

DOE as an energy codes resource: This legislation is written to block DOE from advising states on advancing energy codes, taking away a great resource for those looking to upgrade and improve their codes.

Arbitrary Cost Effectiveness Limits: The language in the draft version would place a 10-year cap on cost effectiveness of energy code standards.

Here's an analysis of the proposal by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

What You Can Do

Instead of passing the Blackburn/Schrader language, Congress should substitute language from HR 2177 by Reps McKinley and Welch which would help make energy codes better. Hearings to mark up the House energy bill were supposed to start today in the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- but they've now been postponed.

Take Action: Call your member of Congress to support strong energy code adoption -- especially if your representative is on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Ask them to oppose the Blackburn/Schrader energy codes proposal and support McKinley and Welch's energy codes language.

  1. Click here to find your member of Congress.
  2. Then see if they're on the Energy and Commerce Committee here (you can still call them even if they aren't on the committee).
  3. Call their office -- state your name and your company, and tell them that your company supports strong energy codes.
  4. Ask them to oppose the Blackburn/Schrader energy codes proposal, and instead support energy codes language from McKinley and Welch.

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Good News on Residential PACE Financing!

by Coby

Yesterday President Obama laid down a marker in support of residential Property Assesed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. The White House announced that people using Federal Housing Authority (FHA)-insured loans will be able to buy property with PACE liens that meet certain restrictions. FHA currently insures approximately 5 million mortgages in the U.S.

Read Efficiency First's statement supporting the President's actions.

You might remember that back in 2010, the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA, not to be confused with FHA), issued rules blocking Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from buying mortgages with PACE liens attached, effectively killing momentum for residential PACE across the U.S. Since then some residential PACE programs have launched and performed very successfully, including those in California.

This action by the White House is a big deal for PACE financing. While the announcement only impacts FHA-insured loans, the White House included mention that there are ongoing conversations with FHFA about PACE -- a promsing sign that, as more and more data proves that PACE liens don't adverse;y impact mortgage default rates, FHFA could loosen it's guidance as well.

Take a look at some of the articles and comments on yesterday's announcement: Greentech Media, The ECOreport, MReport.

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Categories: PACE

Update on the Senate Energy Bill - SAVE Act Not Included (Yet)

by Coby Rudolph

 Last week, the Senate Energy and Naural Resources Committee held markup hearings on a proposed comprehensive energy bill that would include both energy generation and energy efficiency components. The committee largely incorporated the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency legislation into its proposed legislative package (we discussed Shaheen-Portman in our June 2015 Legislative Update).

However, one key component of Shaheen-Portman was missing: the SAVE Act. The Save Act would direct mortgage underwriters to consider the operating costs of a home (i.e. how much its occupants would pay in utility bills) when determining how large a loan the buyer is eligible for. It would be one step toward better valuations for energy efficient homes.

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Efficiency First Applauds the Inclusion of Energy Efficiency in EPA's Clean Power Plan rule

by Coby Rudolph

Efficiency First, America’s building performance trade association, applauded the EPA’s focus on energy efficiency in the final version of its “Clean Power Plan” rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal power plants.

America’s homes account for 22% of all U.S. energy consumption, and improving the energy performance of homes and buildings is a critical component of any initiative aimed at lowering greenhouse gas and other emissions. Across the country, home performance professionals are using building science-based analysis to improve the performance of our homes, making them more livable for customers, providing a valuable resource to utilities and ratepayers, and lowering pollution including greenhouse gas emissions.

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Valuing Home Performance

 The Value of Home Performance

There’s a study out recently that’s causing a stir in the energy efficiency world. Researchers found that a Michigan program for weatherizing low-income households funded by the federal Weatherization Assistance Program wasn’t achieving the energy savings it had promised, and that because of this program wasn’t a cost effective use of funds. The report then goes further, suggesting that residential energy efficiency upgrades overall just might not be worth the cost. It’s a report that has some valuable data, but unfortunately that data gets obscured by key mistakes in the study’s methodology and its wrong conclusions.

Across the country, more and more customers are buying building performance because projects designed based on sound building science -- and installed by trained technicians -- help solve problems in the house and provide customers with a great deal of value. Even so, it’s worth taking a look at the recent Michigan study to assess its accuracy and see what we can learn from the data.

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The Senate Finance Committee is improving the 25C tax credit

by Coby

 The Senate Finance Committee voted on a package of "tax extenders" today, including the 25C and 179D credits that are of particular interest to building performance companies. The 25C credit makes it easier for customers to afford energy efficient upgrades in their homes by providing a credit for certain energy efficient products and equipment. 179D provides a credit for high performing new homes.

Summary

The package of tax extenders that passed in the Senate Finance Committee today includes two changes that Efficiency First has worked hard to advocate for: 

  • It proposes extending the 25C and 179D credits through the end of 2016 (not just through this year)
  • It proposes adding installation costs as eligible for the 25C credit (and updates some equipment efficiency requirements)

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June 2015 Legislative Update

Efficiency First supports policy that promotes innovative solutions to addressing the challenges of increasing the energy efficiency of America’s homes and buildings. Along with the commercial and industrial sectors, it is imperative that residential energy efficiency be included as a significant part of the strategy for achieving our energy and climate goals. That’s why we support legislative efforts like these that strive to strengthen and grow the residential energy efficiency industry:

Federal legislation

PASSED & SIGNED:

National Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015: This bipartisan legislation passed Congress earlier this year and was signed into law by President Obama on April 30. This bill primarily addresses commercial buildings. Key components related to the building performance sector include:

  • Tenant Star, a voluntary program for certifying the energy efficiency of both commercial buildings and their occupants. The goal is to provide a stamp of approval that incentivizes both commercial building owners and occupants to make investments in energy efficiency measures.
  • Directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to study the impact that measure upgrades make on energy use in commercial buildings, and to match predicted savings to actual savings, mirroring some current efforts in the residential sector.

Why it matters for building performance: The Tenant Star program could, over time, mean more interest from commercial building owners and tenants in installing building performance upgrades.


Pending Introduction

Residential Energy Efficiency Valuation Act (REEVA) - Soon to be introduced

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

A pilot program to allow the market to determine how public investment  can best be leveraged to deliver actual energy savings and help the residential energy efficiency sector achieve scale.  Energy Efficiency is America’s greatest and most abundant energy resource. However, many of today’s residential energy efficiency policies don’t do enough to foster the conditions needed to help the building performance market scale: innovation, competition, and a drive toward higher and higher quality work.

REEVA is a grant program to states to fund pilot programs that provide payment for units of energy savings from groups of home energy retrofit projects (not individual projects, which are harder to predict because of occupant behavior), creating accountability for savings predictions using actual metered results.   The aggregated real energy savings provided by a contractor or group of contractors would determine a significant percentage of the energy savings payment.

Why it matters for building performance: Measured savings approaches have two potential advantages: 1) It could improve EM&V methods and over time result in more accurate determinations of savings. This could help efforts to securitize energy savings like other commodities, because financial markets and others would have more trust that savings are actually being generated; and 2) A more market-driven structure for delivering savings could let policymakers, regulators and utilities focus on paying for verified savings while allowing the private sector to better innovate on successful ways to deliver energy savings in the market.


Introduced

The HOMES Act (HR 2194)

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

This bill provides rebates for homeowners to help cover the cost of a home energy efficiency upgrade.  Homeowners begin by hiring an accredited contractor to perform the work; an important criteria that ensures that the contractor is well trained and certified to perform energy efficiency home retrofits. Prior to the start of the project a home energy audit will be performed. The audit will allow the homeowner to sit down with the contractor and select the desired energy savings for the home and scale the project according to the homeowner’s budget and their home’s needs. A qualified retrofit under the HOMES Act would be carried out by the contractor and the homeowner’s rebate will be based on the predicted energy savings.

Why it matters for building performance: Instead of maintaining an exhaustive, up-to-date  list of equipment specifications, offering incentives based on predicted savings can allow the rebate to keep pace with an ever-changing industry and react to market forces.

“Shaheen-Portman”: Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2015 (S.720):

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

Otherwise known as “Shaheen-Portman”. Much of the legislation deals with energy efficiency in non-residential building sectors, with a couple notable exceptions:

  • SAVE Act: Efficiency First worked with allies to advocate for including the SAVE Act in this legislation. This would direct the federally-backed mortgage purchasing companies (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) to consider energy efficiency and anticipated energy costs when looking at how much a buyer can afford to pay for a home.
  • Building codes: The bill directs DOE to develop model building energy codes, based initially on IECC 2009 (for residential) and ASHRAE Standard 90.1 (for commercial). DOE would require that states analyze the latest model codes and voluntarily certify to DOE whether they are in compliance with them. DOE would also have funding to help states comply with the model code, including funding for training inspectors and more.

Why it matters for building performance: The SAVE Act could mean more homebuyers would qualify to buy energy efficient homes, even if those homes are a bit more expensive than average. This could increase the value of an energy efficient home, providing another motivation for people to build high performing new homes and upgrade existing homes. Wider adoption of current energy codes would help spread best building practices across both the new and existing homes sectors.

Energy Productivity Innovation Challenge Act of 2015 (EPIC) (S. 893)

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

This legislation would provide an opportunity for states to apply for funding to implement best practice energy efficiency policy and programs, to the tune of $100 million per year for 2016 and 2017. For this new version of the legislation, Efficiency First worked with allies in Congress and the energy efficiency community on added language to encourage residential energy efficiency applications that would:

  • “reduce administrative and delivery costs for energy efficiency projects;
  • encourage streamlining and automation to support contractor engagement;
  • and implement systems that encourage private investment and market innovation;”

Energy Efficiency Retrofit Pilot Program (S. 600):

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

A proposed pilot program to fund energy efficiency retrofits for buildings that house nonprofit organizations. The legislation would allocate $150 million for 2015 and $200 million per year for 2016-2018.

Why it matters for building performance: Since this bill deals just with buildings that house nonprofits, the impact on the building performance industry would likely be relatively small. But, if passed it would help nonprofits better afford efficiency upgrades including those performed by building performance companies.

Weatherization Enhancement and Local Energy Efficiency Investment and Accountability Act (S. 703)

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

A bill to authorize funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and increase efforts to develop stronger alignment between projects funded by WAP and private sector home performance contractors. On top of funding for WAP, this legislation would authorize $10 million for pilot initiatives to better align WAP processes with the private sector home performance industry. It would also recognize home performance companies trained to national building performance standards as qualified to perform WAP work (as an alternative to individual state WAP certifications)

Why it matters for building performance: Although WAP-funded programs are structured differently in each state, Efficiency First member companies have consistently expressed the need for better integration of private contractors in WAP. So Efficiency First has advocated for better collaboration that would bring benefits across the board: More highly trained workers, less seasonal challenges for companies, more efficient delivery/installation of energy efficiency projects (both private market and low income) and many more.

Access to Consumer Energy Information (S. 1044 / H.R. 1980)

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

Encourages the adoption of policies that allow consumers to control their own electricity data. This bill would direct DOE to set voluntary guidelines for consumer access to electric utility data.

Why it matters for building performance: Better consumer access to utility data would help home performance companies track the energy savings results of their projects, leading to better and better quality work over time, and could open up opportunities for engaging public and private markets to invest in those savings. This legislation is a step in the right direction. However, it’s voluntary and not mandatory for utilities, and it doesn’t address gas or other non-electric fuels, which can encompass much of the opportunity for energy savings from building performance projects.

Residential Energy Savings Act (S. 878)

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

Allocates $250 million for state/local financing programs that are focused on residential energy upgrades.

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June 2015 Legislative Update


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