Do Government and Utility Rebate Programs Help or Hurt?

I say ... they hurt.  What say you?

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In my opinion, the public's interest in energy efficiency will change, exponentially, when they can no longer purchase their energy from their provider on credit.  Prepaid electrical service will force them to calculate their needs in advance and when they run out of "electricity credits" and have to buy more to get the lights back on ... they will have a new and fresh appreciation for efficiency.

In this regard, the utility company will do much to reduce energy consumption and will appreciate a bigger profit from less use since virtually all of their customers will be paying all of their bills.

This is the kind of thinking I too believe is the right way forward. But, it involves large swings in thinking, so I remain cautiously optimistic that such a shift will happen.

In the meantime, if there is anything I can do to hasten the shift then let me know what I need to add to my plate.

I did not address this issue from any one political point of view in my blog.

Government and utility companies, both, offer rebates and other incentives that ADD to energy use and ADD to the out of pocket expenses to the home owner.  Both entities, through their programs, simply fail ... not matter which side of the poltical issue you stand on.

Based on a little info here, some impressions from other threads and info obtained from acquaintances, I think it must vary by state.

If the government would stop indirectly subsidizing the true costs of energy then the market would dictate what makes it and what doesn't. Go outside the US, many pay 2-3x the price for energy that we do. In the US reducing PEAK DEMAND is key for electric companies to reduce overall expenses. It's the infrastructure/powerplant upgrades that cost them big $$$, not so much the actual power generation.

Hate to be the devil's advocate, but if you want anything near good test in test out and whole house performance work in the world of subsidized oil, you need gv't support. Oil's biggest subsidy is the US Military keeping the supply routes open for free.
BUT, rebates are the Worst way for gov't to support home performance.

It could be argued that this is all political. The 'free market' guys hate rebates, but love wars. Wars are good for the economy. Wars are government stimulus at its best and they reduce the number of folks needing jobs. (if you are bothered by that, then start writing letters asking gov't to better support veterans, and the families of veterans) The liberals hate wars but love big government programs.

This is how democracy works. Find a way to compromise. Everyone can have what they want, and everyone loses. Best of all, the same people keep getting elected.

Don't kill the messenger, vote! or better yet run for office.

Government support of home performance can be free.

Step one, let big oil and their several billion per quarter profits pay all of the costs of their industry including keeping forces in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, and all intelligence gathering costs in those areas.
Step 2 end all financial government subsidizing of the oil industry.

That would bring energy prices up for us all.
Then set up a government subsidy for anyone who uses energy that would be designed to prorate downward over 6 years. The subsidy should cover 80% of the rise in the cost of fuel the first year of the massive increase and it should reduce by 15% each year.

the only hope for most of us is vehicles that get 50+ mpg, & efficient houses.

Now the auto industry will have solved the chicken & egg dilemma.

The carbon footprint issue is irrelevant, it gets solved unintentionally.

Renewable fuel energy sources are not only ethically correct, they are damn cheap.

Imagine what we could have done after 9/11 if we had focused our efforts and the global good will we had then on efficiency and renewables.

Enough dreaming.

Government support of big oil will never end.

Given that the best support is not rebates. It is consumer education and subsidizing home performance directly.

Utilities should administer the subsidies. Subsidies should decrease over time. There should be no modeling involved. Do the job and have a subsidy based on the service, specific sums for blower door, wall insulation, furnace, etc. consumers pay what it costs. Contractors decide to pass on rebates or keep them. Utilities monitor energy use going forward. Contractors lose the per item rebates after the first year and those rebates are no longer available. Contractors get 50% of the realized energy savings of clients served as their subsidy every year for 5 years after a house is treated.

No more modeling reduces contractor costs. Now subsidies are based on actual savings. The 5 years means a bad winter or easy winter or price spike can get cancelled by an equal opposite. High cost items that bring big savings become reasonable.

"The 'free market' guys hate rebates, but love wars. " Are you kidding me?

I am glad we have finally got the word "Socialism" out there. The Federal, State, and Utility programs are Socialist programs. Now we can have an honest debate. Socialism is the model Home Performance Pros have advocated and lived by for over 40 years. I have been to many socialist countries that do quite well both with energy and carbon reduction so maybe we should listen, socialism may be good for us?

But at least we are now calling these Socialist Programs by the correct name.

so in your world corporate socialism is OK, but personal socialism is not? 


socialsim in the soviet union failed due to sloth, complacency and corruption, mixed with a need to out gun the US. 


Capitalism is destined to fail due to GREED, complacency, corruption, and a need to 'defend' the inequality the greed and corruption have created. 


I am all for a free market less the greed and corruption.  when corporations hold liquid assets larger that most government budgets it is not difficult for them to buy the sympathy of the 545 folks who run the USA. 

435 representatives, 100 senators, 1 president, and 9 justices. 


until those folks find a way to get elected without mortgaging their souls we are all participants in a process that will eventually come to an end.  the only question is will it be controlled, or simply a wreck?   

Hi Pat,

I am just glad we are able to finally except the fact that the Home Performance industry relies on and promotes a socialist agenda. It is a positive development that we can call it Home performance what it is, Socialism.

This does not imply anything else.

I do feel that because Home Performance folks are socialists they sew the seeds of their own dependency and addiction to government and utility energy (welfare) programs. These programs also let government's and "Do Gooders" pick the winners rather than the market, and typically those folks are the most clueless. They create 3 ring circus programs that are temples to,endless, silly testing, waste, and energy savings fraud that benefit no one other than the associations, managers, gadget makers, trainers, etc, but save the home owner little if anything in energy.  Too bad, this business is afraid of a free market.



Linda, why so hostile to HP folks?

I'm one, and I don't have any subsidies to play with. Have you ever met me? Would you like to speak with some of my wealthy (very anti-socialist) clients? They don't hate they???

I'm not being sarcastic. I'm just trying to find out why you feel so strongly and negatively about HP guys and gals.


Linda's point is valid. All you have to do is just attend one ACI or RESNET Conference and spend some time speaking one-on-one with your peers in this industry and you will find that a vast majority of them are in favor of deep government intervention in the trade. Just look at what Efficiency First did for a solid year a couple of years ago...they did nothing but talk about and push for Homestar, and did so even after it had been a foregone conclusion that the bill was dead. They were having weekly seminars on the fruits of Homestar and how it was going to be a game changer for the industry. I would argue that it would have been the last nail in the coffin with the way they were setting up the bureaucracy to run it, but that is another discussion.

Why were they pushing and lobbying in D.C. so hard? Because they feel that the industry cannot stand on its own. I would say that if those that run the industry do not have confidence enough in it they should find another trade.

I have said it before, and I will probably say it 100 more times. Some of you depending upon these federal programs as a staple in your business better get off your rear-ends and learn to market yourself like every other business entrepreneur does. When the government funds dry up (and they will eventually), you are going to be holding a wet paper bag looking to the sky for help wondering what to do next.


You make many valid (and real) points. Is there not a time when the guys and gals who can really sell this HP stuff need to begin to work with (partner with) the pure auditors, etc?

Guys like you and I John will do just fine in a free market, but do you not feel that the industry must succeed if we are not to run into a lot of big problems connected to energy in the future? If the energy efficiency industry had not blossomed in the industrial and large commercial sectors over the past 40 years then my sense is that we would be cost competitive with almost no one on the international scene.

Just throwing it out there.


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