OVER THE last three years, working families were hit with a myriad of economic challenges, the majority of which were spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to creating strenuous financial hardships for those who struggled with job loss, child care, housing and numerous other obstacles, the pandemic exacerbated existing economic conditions.
As the economy began to bounce back, energy production lagged. And then, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s bloody, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine roiled global markets for oil and natural gas, sending prices at the pump soaring this summer and inflating electricity and home heating prices as the coldest months approach. Addressing the full scope of energy costs requires long-term solutions that must include using energy smarter and reducing reliance on oil and natural gas. The President and Congress have enacted historic legislation to put us on that path, which includes actions we can all take today to reduce costs and our dependence on natural gas here in New Hampshire. We can all take a step forward together by improving the energy efficiency of our homes, businesses, schools and other buildings.
As I’ve long contended, energy efficiency is the cheapest and fastest way to address our energy challenges. That’s precisely why I’ve championed legislation for years to make robust investments in this sector, which we know can lower utility bills, create jobs and help stabilize energy price volatility — precisely the predicament we’re experiencing today.
For more than a decade, I’ve worked with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on hallmark legislation to improve energy efficiency in three key sectors — buildings, industrial and the federal government. Sen. Portman has been a steadfast partner and together we’ve successfully seen the majority of our bill signed into law by attaching key provisions to other bipartisan efforts. This includes the bipartisan infrastructure law that we both helped negotiate, which has paid dividends for Granite Staters. The recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) builds on this success with game-changing investments in energy efficiency and clean energy to combat climate change.
The most exciting part of all of this is that we don’t need to delay acting on climate — participating in energy efficiency programs, when possible, is a small but important step we can all take today. Whether through the new bipartisan infrastructure law, the new climate law or the annual government funding legislation, there are significant opportunities and federal programs available for Granite Staters to make their households more energy efficient.
The recently launched cleanenergy.gov provides consumer-friendly information on how to save energy and money under the new climate law. This includes making efficiency upgrades, installing a heat pump or new appliances, or considering rooftop solar. The website details tax incentives available, and it previews how the recently enacted changes to the tax code and new rebate programs will help save families even more on home efficiency improvements beginning in the new year. Tools on energystar.gov can help determine steps large and small that will make a real difference.
For low-income households who feel the pinch of price increases most acutely, I encourage families to reach out to their local community action agencies to learn about weatherization services, which received record federal funding over the past year thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law. New weatherization readiness funding will help ensure no one needing home repairs is turned away from services. When paired with utility assistance funded by the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), weatherization provides long-term solutions to help keep out the cold for many Granite Staters.
Congress also provided record funding for New Hampshire’s State Energy Program through the bipartisan infrastructure law to support energy efficiency upgrades in our schools and other state priorities. Since this time last year, Congress has provided New Hampshire more than $50 million for these federal programs, which, combined with utility-based incentives through the NHSaves program, empower consumers to improve energy use.
These are trying economic times, but it is important to know about the programs available that will not only impact individual households but have the ability to address overall energy prices and improve the reliability of the electric grid by reducing peak usage on cold days. Prioritizing energy efficient solutions is low-hanging fruit. There is bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, so we know there is a willingness to make progress and ample opportunity to build on that in the future.
Together, we can make a difference in our communities to lower energy costs in the short term and reduce our reliance on natural gas in the long term. Let’s build a more financially secure and environmentally sustainable world for our children and future generations.