Federal Funding Awarded to RI-Led Partnership to Standardize Home Energy Efficiency Ratings
Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced that the U.S. Department of Energy has awarded funding to Rhode Island’s Office of Energy Resources (OER) for an interstate partnership that will help consumers compare home energy efficiency performance.
“Homeowners can really save on their bills through energy efficiency, but it should be easier for consumers to measure home energy usage. This program, led by Rhode Island, brings together several states, as well as energy and housing experts to collaborate on energy efficiency standards and work towards making these ratings easier to compare across the housing market. I applaud Rhode Island’s Office of Energy Resources for its leadership on this issue. When consumers shop for a car, they can compare miles per gallon ratings and factor that into the cost. And when they look for a home, they should be able to determine its relative energy efficiency,” said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, who helped to include $50 million for the State Energy Program in the fiscal year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations spending bill.
“Efficiently-designed homes help families save money on energy costs, while reducing their carbon footprint,” said Whitehouse. “With this federal funding, Rhode Island will create a model for making sure potential buyers have all the information in front of them about a home’s effect on the environment and its long-term energy costs.”
OER was the lead applicant for the $543,377 grant from the Department of Energy’s State Energy Program to align the two most prominent systems of home energy ratings so key metrics are comparable. Rhode Island will partner with Arkansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Oregon, and with organizations including the National Association of State Energy Officials, Earth Advantage, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, and Energy Futures Group. The project will also help create voluntary home energy disclosure policies to encourage the use of energy labeling in the residential real estate market and serve as a national model for other states to adapt.
“With high energy costs and increased awareness surrounding energy conservation, Rhode Islanders want to operate their homes and businesses more efficiently, saving money and helping the environment at the same time. These Energy Department initiatives will empower them to do so and make it easier to implement energy-saving improvements,” said Langevin, who serves as Energy Task Force Chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition in Congress.
“Energy often constitutes a major expense for families in Rhode Island,” said Cicilline. “It is vital that our state’s residents are able to make informed decisions about the energy costs of real estate, and this funding will allow Rhode Island to develop a system that makes this information widely available, boosting incentives for energy-efficient housing and saving families their hard-earned money.”
The two primary systems for sharing information on the energy performance of homes in the United States are the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) from the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) and the Home Energy Score (HES) from the Department of Energy. Both systems, which can be used by real estate listing services to assist homebuyers, use energy modeling software that estimates energy use of a home based on its unique characteristics.
“Rhode Island has nationally recognized energy efficiency initiatives, and we want to continue to innovate and educate in order to enhance our programs. These grants will allow us to work with our state partners to improve energy efficiency tools for homebuyers,” said Governor Gina Raimondo. “I want to thank our federal and state partners for their support and for recognizing the need for these important tools.”
Rhode Island’s project will facilitate collaboration between partnering states, the Department of Energy, and RESNET to define common elements of a consumer-friendly scoring system that can be populated using data from either HERS or HES.
“One path to maximizing energy efficiency is helping consumers understand just how much energy they use,” said Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources Commissioner Carol Grant. “Increasing adoption of energy labeling and enhancing our energy efficiency capabilities will give homebuyers a mechanism to accurately compare home energy ratings, reducing confusion in the real estate market. I look forward to working with our partners to provide innovative opportunities to enhance the energy efficiency market.”
Rhode Island is also participating in a partnership, led by Connecticut, which was awarded a $743,998 State Energy Program grant to pilot studies in the commercial and residential sectors to demonstrate how and to what extent current energy efficiency measurement and verification practices can be streamlined and made more cost effective. That partnership also includes Delaware, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.