Biden: Gov’t Will ‘Encourage People to Do What They Want to Do in the First Place’ To Retrofit Homes for Energy Efficiency

By Penny Starr | November 10, 2010 | 4:01 AM EST

Vice President Joe Biden said at a meeting of his Middle Class Task Force in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday that Americans want to make their homes more energy efficient, but need help from the federal government to do so. ( Starr)

( – At a meeting of President Obama's Middle Class Task Force on Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden, the task force chairman, announced new initiatives that will “encourage” Americans to make their homes and appliances more energy efficient through low-cost or free energy audits, tax rebates and federal grants.

“Every one of you knows somebody who knows that they need to do something about the energy efficiency of their home,” Biden told the audience at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington. “You don’t have to have a PhD to know when you are spending a lot more money heating your home than you need to be.

“So, to encourage people to do what they want to do in the first place, to make it happen, to help those 100 [million] households … we’re announcing three new initiatives that could create tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of savings in energy bills,” Biden said.

The vice president was joined by the heads of three federal departments -– Labor, Housing and Energy -– who helped explain the new initiatives.

The Department of Energy and Department of Housing and Urban Development’s PowerSaver Program is a pilot program that will help “credit-worthy” households get low-interest loans up to $25,000 to make energy-efficiency home improvements.

The Home Energy Score program, designed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and explained on the DOE’s Web site, allows a homeowner to compare his home's energy consumption to that of other homes, similar to a vehicle's miles-per-gallon rating.

A “home energy assessor” will collect energy information during a brief home walk-through and then score that home on a scale of one to 10, according to the DOE. A 10 would represent a home with excellent energy performance whereas a one would represent a home that needs extensive energy improvements or energy upgrades.

The home energy assessor will provide the homeowner with a list of recommended energy improvements and the associated cost savings estimates as well as the Home Energy Score label.

According to the DOE, a “home energy assessor” is like an auditor who “evaluates a home’s energy systems through a series of checks and analyses.”

Assessors must be certified by the Building Performance Institute or by a Residential Energy Services Network; they must also “complete and receive a passing grade on DOE’s Home Energy Scoring Tool online training module and test.”

Once they pass the test, the DOE will assign them an ID and password to access its Home Energy Scoring Tool “and begin conducting assessments.”

Biden said the Obama administration and the Department of Labor want Congress to continue to fund a portion of the Recovery Act (economic stimulus bill) that is set to expire at the end of the year and which gives alternative energy companies grants that cover 30 percent of start-up costs.

The vice president said he “expects” the United States to meet the goal of retrofitting 100 million American homes.

“I don’t want to oversell this, but this is a significant start,” Biden said. “We should imagine a country where we have a hundred million energy-efficient homes. There is no reason on God’s green earth we can’t do that. None. None.”