Leahy Joins In Introducing Legislation To Expand Access To Clean, Affordable Heating And Cooling

(TUESDAY, May 24, 2022) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and other senators have joined together to introduce legislation to expand access to clean, affordable heating and lower energy costs for consumers. The Heating Efficiency and Affordability through Tax Relief (HEATR) Act would create a manufacturer tax credit to incentivize production of high-efficiency, safe, and affordable heat pumps. 

Chief sponsor of the bill is Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).  Cosponsoring the bill in addition to Leahy are Senators Tina Smith (D-MN), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). 

Leahy said:  “With oil and natural gas prices skyrocketing this winter, Vermonters were hit hard by high heating costs.  This bill will not only help provide affordable heating solutions but will help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our reliance on fossil fuels.”

Specifically, the HEATR Act will: 

  • Expand access to clean, affordable heating solutions. Making it easier for landlords to purchase more efficient technology will allow more renters to benefit from the tax credit.
  • Transition the space and water heating market to provide clean, affordable, safe heat and hot water at no extra consumer cost.
  • Spur domestic job creation by requiring equipment to be manufactured in the U.S. 
  • Make more efficient use of taxpayer dollars by targeting the tax credit to where it will have the biggest impact. 

Because heat pumps transfer rather than generate energy, they represent an energy-efficient, affordable alternative to traditional heating and cooling systems. Heat pumps operate on average at 2 to 4 times the efficiency of a regular furnace or boiler, while reducing electricity usage by approximately 50 percent over traditional electric heating, according to the Department of Energy.  According to HomeAdvisor, the average annual cost of heat pumps range between $260-$850 per year, drastically less than the annual costs for furnaces or other traditional heating systems.  Further, given heat pumps operate solely on electricity, they are significantly more emissions-friendly compared to existing heating systems that depend on propane, fuel oil, or natural gas for energy. 

Many homes in Vermont have no air conditioning, but rapidly accelerating climate change is bringing more frequent and protracted periods with high temperatures that can become a very real health threat.  Heat pumps can be an affordable option where home cooling is only needed for a few weeks each year. 

The legislation has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE), the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), Carbon Switch, Earthjustice, and Rewiring America. 

“The HEATR Act will help to make efficient heat pump technology for space and water heating accessible to all.  Heat pumps are two to five times more efficient than their fossil fuel counterparts and are a key component to getting our buildings off of polluting fossil fuels and fighting the climate crisis.  By incentivizing manufacturers to produce more heat pumps at a lower cost, we can make this critical technology more affordable, leading to cleaner, climate-friendly buildings.  The recent IPCC report says that we are in a 'make or break' moment for climate action. With our nation’s buildings responsible for around 40 percent of all carbon emissions, we simply must make our buildings more efficient while using energy from clean, renewable sources if we hope to reach our climate goals. Congress should pass this bill,” said the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in a statement. 

“As households face high energy prices, we must urgently consider innovative solutions that reduce costs for American families,” said Earthjustice Associate Legislative Representative Jake Kornack. “With this bill, families can replace oil and gas furnaces with highly efficient heat pumps that can cool and heat homes at a fraction of the cost while building a more sustainable future for all of us.”

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