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Your Unanswered Questions…. Answered - Batch 2

February 28, 2011 - 2:46pm


Last month, Secretary Chu hosted an online town hall  to discuss President Obama's clean energy innovation agenda -- and while he was able to answer about 10 questions submitted online during the event, we received more than 200!

For the next fews days, we're answering some of the ones Secretary Chu wasn't able to get to that day. Below is our second batch of questions and answers.

From John Fahey over Facebook:

How can we create a predictable investment environment for the renewable sector?

President Obama’s proposal to generate 80 percent of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035 would give companies the investment certainty they’ve been asking for.  
A Clean Energy Standard would send a clear signal to businesses that clean energy investments will continue to be smart investments in the long-term.  It would create a guaranteed market for clean energy, one in which the best technologies and the most innovative approaches will break through and find investment capital that might have otherwise sat on the sidelines.  The President’s proposal would nurture clean energy industries and unleash the much-needed investments that will create jobs today and for decades to come.

From Robyn over email:
New housing would seem to be one of the prime areas to maximize green technology. Right now the investment tax credits available for solar and other technologies are only available to the home buyer. Wouldn't it make more sense to give this credit to the home builder to enable them to install the green technology and use the tax credit to lower the purchase price? This is especially important in solar water heating and new technologies like solar air conditioning where a new installation is less expensive than a retrofit.

Actually, home builders can currently take advantage of a federal tax credit for building more energy efficiently.  The credit, equal to $1,000 - $2,000 depending on the type of the home, is available to builders whose homes reduce heating and cooling costs by a set percentage.  It’s up to the builders whether or not they pass that credit on to their customers.  But even if they choose not to, new home buyers will still benefit since they’ll be moving into a home that will use less energy from the start.
Also keep in mind, renewable energy systems like solar water heaters don’t have to be retrofitted onto an existing home to qualify for a federal tax credit.  Home buyers can still take advantage of these incentives when purchasing a new home, provided the system meets all the necessary requirements.
Additionally, there may be other incentives or financing options available to new home buyers to assist in covering the costs of renewable energy installations or making other improvements to increase their home’s efficiency.

From lowfoot through Twitter
Are there federally sponsored programs, now, or in the works to harness energy via conservation from people's homes?

Reducing energy waste is a top priority for Secretary Chu.  By improving the efficiency of America’s homes, we can save families money by saving energy. Some of these include the Home Energy Score, a tool to give you straightforward, reliable information about your home’s efficiency, as well as the Energy Savers website, which provides many tips to make your home more energy efficient.  Additionally, the Department’s Weatherization Assistance Program provides home energy efficiency improvements to low income families across the United States, while the Building Technologies Program funds research into more energy efficient building techniques, encourages builders to build more efficient homes, sets energy efficiency standards for appliances, and helps states incorporate energy efficiency standards into local building codes.
Homeowners also benefit directly from improving home energy efficiency.  Reduced utility bills, in some cases coupled with federal tax credits, can more than make up for the cost of energy-related home improvements and energy-efficient appliances over their lifetimes.  The Department of Energy estimates that the value of weatherization improvements to a home is 2.2 times greater than the cost of the improvement itself.
Kilowatts saved through energy conservation (also called "megawatts") are not typically harnessed; instead, they reduce the amount of energy that power plants need to generate to meet electricity demand.  This leads to other benefits like reduced power plant emissions and reduced stress on the electricity grid.

G. Simmons is a new media specialist and contractor for the Office of Public Affairs.