More Local Control Over Energy Retrofit Dollars Recommended

Published February 15, 2010, a coalition of groups formerly known as Americans for Smart Natural Catastrophe Policy, has embraced the Obama administration’s decision to extend rebates to individuals who retrofit their homes to make them more energy-efficient—but the organization argued these efforts could be more effective.

The coalition includes environmental, insurance industry, and taxpayer advocacy groups. They contend greater efficiency would be achieved by giving states, local government, and consumers greater flexibility to use stimulus dollars for disaster mitigation measures to strengthen homes and protect them from hurricanes, earthquakes, and other disasters.

“That kind of flexibility is an efficient use of tax dollars that produces an indirect benefit,” said Sue Piper, a policy analyst for Oakland Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Jean Quan (D). “It also would save livelihoods and save lives. It just makes common sense and provides a benefit to consumer and taxpayer alike.”

$1 Spent, $4 Saved
A study by the National Institute of Building Sciences found every dollar spent on mitigation saves four dollars in cleanup, recovery, and rebuilding costs. A bipartisan coalition of U.S. House members has argued when energy efficiency audits are conducted, a review of disaster resiliency should be done so mitigation and energy efficiency recommendations and upgrades can be made simultaneously.

“First of all, the way the weatherization funds are designated in [the stimulus], it favors some cold-weather states over others. Second, if you truly look at it as a job stimulus bill, those people who do seismic construction are the ‘hammers and nails’ people, who are facing high unemployment rates,” Piper said.

Several years ago the city of Oakland approved a pilot retrofit program in which homeowners received a tax rebate if they signed up and abided by it guidelines. Before the program was initiated, only six residents sought permits to retrofit their homes. After two years of an aggressive marketing and educational effort, approximately 400 homeowners had applied.
Could Cut Insurance Rates
Brad Kading, president of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR), believes mitigating risk could cut insurance rates.

“In addition to saving lives, it is a wise alternative to the more costly practice of providing insurance subsidies. Insurance is a surrogate for the cost of risk, and with people complaining about cost of insurance, this initiative could lead to lower insurance prices,” said Kading.

Jennifer G. Hickey ([email protected]) writes from Washington, DC.