U.S. Rep. Jason Crow has introduced legislation to reauthorize a tax credit for homeowners who install energy-efficient improvements.
He called the bill a common-sense way to address climate change while saving consumers billions of dollars in energy costs.
The bill, dubbed the Saving Americans Value through Efficient Energy Act — the “SAVE Energy Act” — would permanently extend a tax credit that expired at the end of 2017. It provided up to $500 to homeowners for qualifying improvements, including doors, windows, roofing, insulation and furnaces.
The Aurora Democrat, who was elected to a first term last November, said in an interview that he was inspired by a Colorado law that created incentives for consumers to to invest in technology that saves energy. That 2007 measure has led to more than $1 billion in economic gains for the state and helped bolster the 30,000 Colorado jobs tied to the field, he said.
"If we want people to enact broad-reaching change, then the first place we should look to make a positive difference is in their pocketbook,” Crow said.
“You don’t have to look any further than Colorado to see the impact bills like these can make.This bill is good for the environment, good for the economy, and good for families. It is as simple as that.”
The federal tax credit was originally established with broad, bipartisan support in 2005 but lapsed amid the Republican effort to pass sweeping tax reform legislation.
Crow said he expects to bring Republican co-sponsors on board with the kind of market-based incentives the GOP has supported in the past.
"It was being used, it was effective, it was saving people a lot of money," he said. "It was caught up in the politics of the cycle, as many things were in 2017 that fell by the wayside. But now it's time to re-attack the program and do the right thing."
In its original incarnation, the provision let homeowners claim tax credits for installing improvements that met efficiency standards in owner-occupied residences. The credit typically covered 10 percent of the cost of improvements, with various caps for different types of installations and a $500 lifetime limit.
In 2015, taxpayers claimed more than $1.6 billion in the credits. Crow said estimates show consumers could save as much as $13 billion in energy costs over the next 30 years if his bill becomes law.
"It's not only saving homeowners money for making necessary home improvements, but it's also spurring the industry in economic growth," Crow said.
The bill is something that can pass this year even as the "Green New Deal" omnibus climate legislation faces roadblocks in the Republican-controlled Senate and skepticism from some Democrats, Crow said.
Crow said he supports the overall goals of the Green New Deal — "Climate change is a crisis for our planet, and rising energy cost are a crisis for our community" — but said he's "in listening mode" while determining whether to support the specific legislation. That includes holding discussions with environmentalists and labor groups, he added.
"There's no doubt we have to take bold action on climate, but we also have an obligation to do something immediately," he said. "Instead of doubling down on this crisis, we're running in the other direction. There are things we can do; we can move the ball forward on this issue."
Residences account for roughly 25 percent of energy use in the United States, according to figures cited by Crow.
Crow's bill has been assigned to the tax-writing House Committee on Ways and Means.