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Improving Energy Efficiency and Creating Jobs Through Weatherization

December 9, 2013 - 12:00am

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Since 2009, when the Energy Department seized a major opportunity to invest $5 billion through our Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to stimulate job growth and help families affected by the economic recession, we have improved the energy efficiency, comfort and health of more than 1.1 million homes across the nation. This funding, made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and complemented with annual appropriations and more than $200 million per year from utilities, private investors and state and local sources, also helped train and employ thousands of weatherization professionals during this period.  At one time, the WAP was the eighth largest job creation program in the Recovery Act portfolio, employing over 15,000 additional workers in support of the national infrastructure.As a result of this work, these low-income households are now seeing $250 to just under $500 annually in energy savings, easing their financial burden during a difficult time. More broadly, since 2009, the WAP and its partners at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the EERE Building Technologies Office have now provided energy efficiency improvements to over 1.6 million homes. The Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimates that these cumulative upgrades will save nearly $16.4 billion over the life of the measures and avoid more than 85 million tons of carbon emissions, supporting the President's goals of doubling energy productivity and reducing carbon pollution. To put that into perspective for you, 85 million tons of carbon emission is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from more than 17.7 million cars.Today, I'm attending an event hosted by the White House, in collaboration with the National Association of State Community Services Programs (NASCSP), to highlight the technologies and unique industry of weatherization that is creating high-skilled jobs and working to improve the energy efficiency of homes throughout the nation.   Businesses and state energy officials from across the country will join me and my colleague who oversees the WAP, Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen Hogan, to discuss how weatherization has made a positive impact in the lives of American families. You can watch the event live from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST on WhiteHouse.gov.The WAP represents a model of high-impact public investment -€œ government at its best.  The modest annual funding provides local communities with a foundation for larger efforts and provides a consistent and reliable baseline of services that allows organizations to maintain the highly qualified workers, tools, and equipment that make retrofit programs possible. Amplifying this impact, every $1 in WAP funds leverages an additional $3.35 from other federal, state, local, and private entities to increase the ability of the network to provide high-quality, holistic services to enhance the health, safety, and quality of life of its clients. More than 10,000 American businesses are supported by the activities of WAP including manufacturers, supply chain vendors, and private contractors. Moreover, more than 88 percent of the materials used by WAP crews are domestically produced - including insulation, sealants, HVAC equipment and appliances -€œ which means that even more money is directly reinvested into the American economy. Since the Weatherization Assistance Program's inception in 1976, more than 7 million low-income households have received energy efficiency upgrades to help them save money. In the course of this work, WAP has provided innovative methods and tools to optimize these upgrades. In fact, WAP serves as the national leader in incorporating cutting-edge technology and work practices into the home retrofit industry and allows technologies to grow to market scale in advance of private market demand.  Staples of the home performance industry, such as blower door tests, infrared cameras and dense pack insulation, were all successfully developed and implemented through the WAP.From developing technical certifications in the weatherization industry to creating new materials to improve home insulation, WAP has spurred breakthroughs in residential energy efficiency. The WAP is again propelling the industry forward by leading the nation in the creation and adoption of professional worker certifications, work quality specifications, and training program accreditation. For example, WAP has recently developed a series of guidelines that aim to standardize practices within the weatherization industry and increase home energy efficiency. These include the Guidelines for Home Energy Professionals, which bring together WAP and industry professionals to develop valuable industry resources such as the Standard Work Specifications, Job Task Analyses, and National Home Energy Professional Certifications.  These tools define the roles of various weatherization professionals and establish standards for quality in the performance of residential energy upgrades.As we move into fiscal year 2014, the President has reaffirmed his commitment to the Weatherization Assistance Program and requested $184 million for the program's operations, maintaining the level of funding needed to support our network and continue to provide a cost-effective level of home energy upgrades and technical assistance. To that end, the Secretary and I will continue to do all in our power to support the vital work that this industry does for the American people. The WAP is worth fighting for and the Energy Department will continue its support of the workers, businesses, and families touched by this important program.I believe one of the biggest benefits of the WAP is the national network of weatherization professionals who are advancing the nation's clean energy economy. I'm talking about the 25,000 men and women working for more than 1,000 local agencies, nearly 4,000 private contractors, and 58 state grantee offices.  Without the existence of well-trained crews and management support at all levels of operation, these accomplishments could not have been achieved.  Today's event at the White House is all about recognizing these hardworking men and women for the great work that they're doing. From providing technological advancements that benefit every American home, to decreasing our national dependence on foreign oil, to ensuring that children have the opportunity to live in a warm, safe, and healthy home - Weatherization Works!   For more information on this event, please visit NASCSP.org and watch the event live onWH.gov/Live today at 2 p.m. EST.

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