By: Kara Saul-Rinaldi, Vice President of Government Affairs & Policy
On January 3, 2019, the members of the 116th Congress were officially sworn in. With many new members and a shift of power in the House of Representatives will come new opportunities, as well as new challenges.
Democrats will now hold the committee gavels in the House. The gavels come with agenda-setting power, as well as the ability to hold hearings. There has already been an uptick in conversations around climate change and transitioning to a clean energy economy, and this could present a major opportunity to increase discussion of, and focus on, energy efficiency policy in the 116th Congress.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer penned an op-ed last month saying any infrastructure package must include provisions to address climate change and incentivize a clean energy economy, and explicitly mentioned residential energy efficient tax credits. (There is an appetite on both sides of the aisle as well in the Administration for a large infrastructure package, although paying for it remains a key issue.) Members in the House and Senate are actively working on workforce development legislation, and HPC has been at the table for those discussions advocating for inclusion of language to specifically promote workforce development in the home performance industry. Members of Congress are also hungry for common sense energy efficiency policy to introduce in this new Congress, and HPC has been there to educate them on our legislative proposals designed to incentivize homeowners to undertake whole home retrofits, increase data access, and otherwise advance the home performance industry.
On the appropriations front, maintaining level funding for residential energy efficiency programs at the Department of Energy will be challenging without a budget agreement - it remains to be seen if Congress can negotiate a deal. HPC will remain closely engaged in the FY20 appropriations process, submitting programmatic and language requests to members, submitting public testimony, and requesting to testify before the House and Senate Energy and Water Subcommittees.
Fighting for adequate funding of residential energy efficiency programs within the Department of Energy will not be our only challenge going into this new year. On Capitol Hill, the Senate remains in Republican control, which could lead to increased tensions between the chambers and, ultimately, gridlock. We are also entering a Presidential election year, which can sometimes slow progress on meaningful legislation. However, in January the Senate confirmed Daniel Simmons as Assistant Secretary for DOE’s Office Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – a positive step to advance DOE’s energy efficiency work.
There will also be changes in key committee makeup, most notably with Sen. Cantwell (D-WA) stepping down from the top Democratic spot on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. She will be replaced by Sen. Manchin (D-WV), who holds different views on clean energy policy. That said, there will also be many new faces on key committees in both chambers. This will provide us with the opportunity to introduce new lawmakers to the home performance industry, gain new allies, help develop new strategic partnerships and find new pathways to advance home performance policy.
2019 is certainly looking to be a busy one, and HPC will be working hard on all fronts to promote policies and regulations that will strengthen and grow the home performance industry.