WRITTEN BY: Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service – OH
July 23, 2019
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Weatherization programs in Ohio could get a federal funding boost. Last week, a U.S. House committee marked-up HB 2041, which would provide a roughly 20% increase in funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program. A Senate committee is expected to clear its version of the legislation this week.
Dave Rinebolt, executive director at Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, said the federal dollars support the weatherization of about 8,000 Ohio homes annually.
“For those 8,000 families, this money is really important. But it also benefits all utility ratepayers,” Rinebolt said. “Because when we help people weatherize their homes, make their homes more efficient, they are less likely to need any assistance to pay their bills.”
The five-year reauthorization would increase spending to $290 million for 2020, and then top out at $350 million for 2024 and 2025. Rinebolt said the legislation has other important provisions that will increase the use of renewable-energy technology and make it easier to work on multi-family buildings – which have been underserved in the past.
Weatherization programs reduce energy use through insulation, air-leak reduction, heating-system repair, energy audits and other services. Rinebolt noted Department of Energy evaluations rate Ohio’s program as providing the highest energy savings of any state in the country.
“So the program here is running real well,” he said. “It’s the kind of quality that this network provides that’s the reason that all of the major Ohio utilities fund weatherization activities in addition to the federal dollars.”
There are about 1,500 direct jobs associated with weatherization funding in Ohio, and Rinebolt said there are about 3,000 jobs total when taking into account vendors and indirect jobs.
“Over 80,000 Ohioans are employed in energy-efficiency work. So while we’re a relatively small part of that, we have a real big impact on the customers we serve,” Rinebolt said.
According to federal data, more than 20 million U.S. families are eligible for weatherization services, and on average, the value of weatherization improvements is two times greater than the cost.