By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Saying winters in Wisconsin are cold is like saying the sun rises in the east – it’s a given fact. But facts don’t pay the cost the energy bills, which is why programs such as the U.S. Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance Program exist.
The program began in 1976 and has helped more than 7 million families, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The program aims to make homes more energy efficient which it does by weatherstripping windows and doors, installing insulation, replacing/repairing water heaters and more.
On Wednesday, Dec. 15, the Department of Energy announced an $18 million funding opportunity, which will help state, local and tribal governments enhance their weatherization assistance programs. The announcement is a part of President Joe’s Biden’s plan to lower utility costs for low-income households.
Ali Zaidi is senior advisor to the president on national climate policy. He spoke to the Milwaukee Courier about the administration’s goal to regear the weatherization program.
“The important recognition when you look at energy costs is how they have persistently, over the course of decades, been a real challenge for low-income communities especially communities of color,” Zaidi said.
The Weatherization Assistance Program is something that works and can’t be outsourced, Zaidi said, and the president’s goal was to go bigger and bolder with it. The idea was taken to Congress, where it received bipartisan support and dollars to invest in weatherization efforts, Zaidi said.
With funding, the program will be able to improve how it operates, expand its reach and become more accessible to Americans in need. The White House is working with labor union, trade schools and technical colleges to train workers and create a diverse workforce.
“We’re excited about the improvements to the program and that’s going to get amplified throughout that $3.5 trillion the president was able to secure by working with folks on both sides of the aisle,” he said.
Jennifer Granholm, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, expressed her excitement on Twitter.
“Today, I’m pleased to announce that we’re making over $18 million available from @POTUS’ Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill to expand and enhance our Weatherization Assistance Program – relieving the pressure that energy bills put on American families,” Granholm wrote.
Zaidi noted that the changing climate threatens the reliability and resilience of the country’s electricity grid. Biden’s Build Back Better Plan aims to invest in projects such as raising electrical substations, bearing power lines and modernizing the grid.
“We’re seeing the climate bear down on the energy system,” Zaidi said. “It’s generating tens in billions of dollars of costs that’s absorbed by our economy and by our consumers. Tackling the climate crisis head on is the way to solve that and part of the solution has to be investing in those resilience improvements.”