Rep. Perlmutter: GREEN Act ‘Like A Pay Raise’ For Low- And Moderate-Income Families

Tucked away inside the the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act passed by the House of Representatives is the Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhoods (GREEN) Act, crafted by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO). But given the uncertain timeframe for ACES coming up in the Senate, the GREEN Act will also be moved as a stand-alone bill in both chambers (and currently has 19 co-sponsors in the House).

The idea behind the GREEN Act is incentivizing green construction through a variety of means, including tax credits, lower mortgage rates, and innovative financing techniques. It would also provide for upgrading the energy efficiency of HUD housing and establish grant programs for states and localities to promote their own energy-efficiency programs.

The Wonk Room spoke with Perlmutter today, who explained the economic benefit that he hopes the GREEN Act will have for American households, and particularly those with low- to moderate-incomes:

It helps low- and moderate-incomes. It helps all income levels, because utility costs have been going up for, you know, the last umpteen years. And particularly for low- to moderate-income earners, that’s a big part of their discretionary income, what they have left over at the end of the month, after paycheck and groceries and everything else. So if we can help them control or even shrink utility costs, it’s like a pay raise to those people…We’re hoping to shrink energy costs by 30 percent.

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One interesting aspect of the bill is a provision providing for the leasing of renewable energy equipment, such as solar panels or geothermal units, to get around the prohibitive, up-front installation costs that puts this sort of equipment out of the reach of many. In theory, the cost of leasing the equipment would be outweighed by the energy savings:

We have another aspect to the bill which we’ve been working with home-builders on, which is to lease, in effect, your solar or even your geothermal equipment so that people wouldn’t have the big up-front cost to put solar on their roof, but instead they could lease it from the home-builder who’s working with the financial community to put the solar units up on the roof, just like you would lease a satellite dish for your TV.

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The GREEN Act is basically a panoply of ways to make greening homes and buildings a bit more affordable and cost-effective, and Perlmutter said that the powerful home-builder’s lobby is as “on-board as you can ever get the home-builders.” The act wouldn’t be a fundamental reorganization of energy policy, but it’s very easy to see how it would do a lot to reduce emissions and energy costs all over the country, when you bundle together the effects of its many parts.