New Obama Energy-Efficient Green Building Programs
The Obama Administration announced in mid February a multi-agencyprogram to initiate economic growth based on energy-efficient greenbuilding development that will help continue to fuel the green revolutionin the U.S. Seven federal agencies issued a combined FundingOpportunity Announcement of up to $129.7 million over five years tocreate a regional research center that will foster new buildingefficiency technologies and deployment strategies.
The agencies will collaborate to leverage funding and resources topromote regional growth through an Energy Regional Innovation Cluster(E-RIC) that is based on an Energy Innovation Hub focused on developing new technologies to improve the design of energy-efficient buildingsystems. This Energy Innovation Hub, one of three proposed by theAdministration and funded by Congress in the FY10 budget, will becomposed of a multi-disciplinary teams of researchers focused onsolving primary R&D challenges in the field.
Similar to the clean energy and green building partnership agreements that President Obama signed with China and India, the E-RIC will target new technologies and share best practiceswith the public and private sectors. The E-RIC chosen under the fundingopportunity will be based at a university, national laboratory,non-profit organization, or private firm, partnering closely with localor state government officials and applying the knowledge base of localarchitects, builders, consultants and manufacturers. This program isdesigned to develop a regional economy that could support otherbusinesses that address the full production lifecycle for buildingtechnologies; thus leading to spin-off green jobs. The Phoenix andTucson, Arizona areas, home to large research universities, both havethe possibility of receiving funding for this program.
At the consumer level, President Obama announced an efficiency planlast week, denoted as Home Star, and informally known as “cash forcaulkers,” which would require Congressional approval. It is intendedto incentivize many types of energy-efficient upgrades for homes,creating construction and manufacturing jobs across the country.
Consumers would be eligible for between $1,000 and $1,500 for simplehome upgrades such as insulation, duct sealing, water heaters, airconditioning units, windows, roofing and doors. In addition, homeownerswilling to complete more comprehensive energy retrofits would beeligible for a $3,000 rebate, if the efficiency measures lead to a 20percent energy savings. Homeowners, who could achieve even higherenergy reductions, may receive up to $8,000, depending on a slidingscale.
On average, a home energy audit and retrofit costs $5,000 to $8,000; itgenerally shaves 20-40 percent off the monthly energy bills. In anycase, this program is significantly less elaborate than the Recovery through Retrofit programannounced in the fall and originally scheduled for formal release inFebruary, which would offer special finance packages to homeowners fornot only these types of retrofits- but renewable energy systems aswell.
Federal grants in lieu of tax creditsfor renewable energy projects under section 1603 of the Recovery Actare undergoing pressure and being threatened by legislation in Congressat this time due to the fact that this portion of the stimulus hasprimarily subsidized products made overseas,and these imports would only be accentuated by a carbon emissionsregulations system, unless there is a shift towards significantly more domestic manufacturing. This may be a contentious issue for other federal green energy programs.
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Brian Coppa, Ph.D., has authored many pending U.S. patents,international peer-reviewed journal articles, and industry analysespublications concerning electronic materials and devices and greentechnology, which have received numerous prestigious citations andgarnered numerous invited presentations across the U.S. He is a leadingsenior consultant for GLG Inc. regarding alternative energy andmicroelectronic applications.
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