The Presidential Planner

Mar 2, 2010 7:05am

From Sunlen Miller

President Obama will travel to Savannah, Georgia, today to speak about incentives for homeowners who make energy efficiency investments in their homes, as called for during his State of the Union address, and part of a larger jobs creation strategy outlined by the president in December of last year.

The president will visit a training center at Savannah Technical College where people learn how to install energy efficient HVAC systems, solar panels, and installation and will outline details of his “HOMESTAR” program that would aim to create jobs by encouraging American families to invest in energy saving home improvements.

“The concept of HOMESTAR is simple. Homes built in the first half of the last century can use about 50% more energy than homes built today,” a senior administration official briefing reporters ahead of the president’s event said, “much of that energy goes to waste and cost consumers and families money. The simple act of retrofitting these buildings to make them more energy efficient – new windows and doors, , installation, roofing, modernizing heating and cooling equipment, is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest things we can do to put Americans back to work while saving  families money and reducing carbon emissions.”

The idea of the program is “simplicity and ease” for families and consumers – which administration officials likened to the popular Cash-for-Clunkers program.

“If a family is looking to do an investment or an upgrade to their home this program will give them a direct and easy to access rebate right at the point of sale or at the point of engagement with a contractor, for a variety of investments they could make in their home,” an administration official said.

There would be two tiers of investment: a  silver star set of rebates which would be about $1,500 for a simple menu of activates that one could do in the home like insulation, duct ceilings, upgrade of water heaters and HVAC systems, windows and doors.

The second tier of rebates – the gold star set — would be for consumers looking to do a more comprehensive retrofit. This would include an upfront audit of a home to identify where it could be improved to achieve greater energy efficiency and then a variety of investment in the home to achieve at least 20% reduce in energy use. Those rebates would be $3,000 with the potential for additional if you save more than 20% energy.

“The program would be structured, because our primary focus here is on jobs, the program would be structured to stand up quickly. Similar to the Cash-For-Clunkers program, the consumer would have the opportunity to get that rebate right up front.”

The White House says the program will result in the creation of tens of thousands of jobs while achieving substantial reductions in energy use – the equivalent of the entire output of three coal-fired power plants each year. Consumers in the program are anticipated to save between $200 – $500 per year in energy costs.

The White House estimates the cost of the program to be somewhere around $600 billion – and is something that they are working with congress on to finalize the final details. “The actual details of the financing component is something that we will be working with congress on, but there are a range of innovative efforts across the country at both the state and the local government currently.” Even in the hard economic climate the White House is confident that this program would be popular. The White House estimates that 2-3 million households will participate in this program. It is designed to be a short term program, but they have not yet set the time limit on the offer.

“We have quite a bit of evidence even in the current economic environment that this type of incentive, that is easy for a consumer to get, that is up front and has a bit of a time limit – get-it-while-you can ability is powerful.”

The president’s visit to Savannah today is the third stop of the “White House to Main Street” jobs tour. Later, the President will tour a manufacturing facility and a local small business in the Savannah area. The President will return to Washington, DC later in the evening.

-Sunlen Miller   

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