Democrats’ Cap-and-Trade Bill Creates ‘Retrofit’ Policy for Homes and Businesses
June 30, 2009 - 6:42 PMThe 1,400-page cap-and-trade legislation pushed through by House Democrats contains a new federal policy that residential, commercial, and government buildings be retrofitted to increase energy efficiency, leaving it up to the states to figure out exactly how to do that.
This means that homeowners, for example, could be required to retrofit their homes to meet federal “green” guidelines in order to sell their homes, if the cap-and-trade bill becomes law.
The bill, which now goes to the Senate, directs the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop and implement a national policy for residential and commercial buildings. The purpose of such a strategy – known as the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) – would be to “facilitate” the retrofitting of existing buildings nationwide.
“The Administrator shall develop and implement, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy, standards for a national energy and environmental building retrofit policy for single-family and multi-family residences,” the bill reads.
It continues: “The purpose of the REEP program is to facilitate the retrofitting of existing buildings across the United States.”
The bill leaves the definition of a retrofit and the details of the REEP program up to the EPA. However, states are responsible for ensuring that the government’s plans are carried out, whatever the final details may entail.
“States shall maintain responsibility for meeting the standards and requirements of the REEP program,” the bill says.
States may contract with private agencies to oversee the retrofitting and measuring of improved efficiency and environmental friendliness of houses and other buildings, making sure that private citizens have a variety of choices for retrofitting their homes.
“States and local government entities may administer a REEP program in a manner that authorizes public or regulated investor-owned utilities, building auditors and inspectors, contractors, nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies, and other entities to perform audits and retrofit services,” reads the bill.
It further says, “A State or local administrator of a REEP program shall seek to ensure that sufficient qualified entities are available to support retrofit activities so that building owners have a competitive choice among qualified auditors, raters, contractors, and providers of services related to retrofits.”
In fact, individual homeowners are even allowed to retrofit buildings themselves. The bill gives specific protection to individual owners’ rights to choose who inspects and retrofits their property.
“Nothing in this section is intended to deny the right of a building owner to choose the specific providers of retrofit services to engage for a retrofit project in that owner’s building.”
Even though Congress says the states are responsible for carrying out the retrofits, the EPA and the Department of Energy will establish the guidelines and rules for doing so.
“The Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy, shall establish goals, guidelines, practices, and standards for accomplishing the purpose stated in subsection (c) [the retrofits],” the bill says.
The program would involve a system of certified auditors, inspectors, and raters who inspect homes and businesses using devices such as infrared cameras (which measure how much heat a building is giving off) to measure their energy efficiency.
The results of these energy audits would then be used to determine what retrofits need to be performed. The audits would examine things like water usage, infrared photography, and pressurized testing to determine the efficiency of door and window seals, and indoor air quality.
Those retrofits would be performed by licensed retrofit contractors using government-approved methods and resources including roofing materials that reflect solar energy.
“[B]uilding retrofits conducted pursuant to a REEP program utilize, especially in all air-conditioned buildings, roofing materials with high solar energy reflectance,” the legislation states.
After the retrofitting is complete, the government – state, local, or federal – will come back and re-inspect the house to determine how much energy has been saved and whether the retrofit is up to federal government standards.
“Determination of energy savings in a performance-based building retrofit program through — (A) for residential buildings, comparison of before and after retrofit scores,” the proposal states.
To help pay for the cost of these retrofits, states and localities may provide loans, utility rate rebates, tax rebates, or implement retrofit programs on their own. In fact, the government will even pay up to 50 percent of the cost of a retrofit through financial awards to individual home and building owners.
“PERCENTAGE.—Awards under clause (i) shall not exceed 50 percent of retrofit costs for each building,” reads the bill.