Vice President Joe Biden and the government’s Middle Class Task Force unveiled a report this week that aims to make homes more energy efficient. Dubbed “Recovery Through Retrofit,” the report offers suggestions on how to use existing Recovery Act funding to create a home energy efficiency retrofit industry. An ambitious goal, to be sure, but is it plausible?
One of the report’s most innovative ideas is the creation of energy performance labels for homes–something akin to the government’s ENERGY STAR label for appliances. Before such a label can be used, however, the government has to create a standardized home energy performance measure. That’s more difficult than it sounds, as evidenced by recent allegations that the Energy Department doesn’t require appliance manufacturers to conduct independent energy efficiency tests. At the same time, the ENERGY STAR label is plagued by critics who say that its standards for efficiency are too low. If a label that has been around since 1992 still deals with these issues, how long will it be until a home energy efficiency label can claim reliability? Such a program will have to be vigorously monitored for quality assurance.
The report’s suggestion for comprehensive retrofit workforce certification and training is also promising. Under the Recovery Through Retrofit plan, model training programs and apprenticeships for workers will be developed, and a nationally recognized worker certification standard will be created. In addition to providing new jobs for willing workers, the Recovery Through Retrofit plan could create an industry of retrofit specialists who will always be needed–even after an initial retrofit is completed on a home, maintenance will be necessary.
Whether these ideas ever come to fruition depends on what happens in the government’s Energy Retrofit Working Group, an interagency organization that will give Biden a proposal on how to implement the Recovery Through Retrofit plan sometime in the next month. Stay tuned.