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Senator Collins Presses Energy Secretary to Expand Weatherization Program that Permanently Lowers Heating Costs

Senator Collins also spoke about the importance of energy storage to boost alternative energy like solar and wind


Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A on Weatherization.  

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A on Energy Storage.  


Washington, D.C.—As the cost of home heating oil soars to record levels, U.S. Senator Susan Collins questioned U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today about the steps her Department is taking to improve and expand access to the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).  Senator Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, has long championed funding for this program that helps low-income families make energy-efficient improvements and permanently lower their heating and electric bills. 


Senator Collins was part of the core group of 10 Senators who negotiated the text of the bipartisan infrastructure law, which provided an additional $3.5 billion for WAP.  In January, she joined Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) in leading a bipartisan letter urging Secretary Granholm to update the program’s regulations and guidance to ensure the infusion of money for the program is spent more efficiently and reaches more people.


“In my state, two-thirds of the homes use heating oil to stay warm,” Senator Collins said.  “And just last week, the cost of a gallon of heating oil exceeded $6.  That is a record high that I have never seen in our state, and it's causing tremendous hardship. We know that the Weatherization Assistance Program makes a big difference in states like Maine where we have some of the oldest housing stock in the nation.  That means a lot of uninsulated attics and leaky windows, which causes discomfort but also wastes energy.  And that's why I've been such a longtime supporter of the Weatherization Assistance Program… I would ask you today what improvements you see to help simplify and enhance the effectiveness of the Weatherization program.”


“Thank you for your longtime support of Weatherization. I agree with you about the utter importance,” Secretary Granholm responded.  “There [are] 39 million homes that are eligible for [WAP], and unfortunately, we can only do in a given year [35,000] to 40,000 of them…there's such a great need out there…the bipartisan infrastructure law will enable us to do hundreds of thousands more.”


Secretary Granholm went on to describe two new initiatives the Energy Department is proposing in its fiscal year 2023 budget to update WAP: First, the Energy Department is requesting $30 million to establish a pilot that will help homes become eligible for WAP funding.  Currently, homes are excluded from WAP if they have issues like an unsound roof or mold.  Second, the Energy Department is asking for $100 million for an effort to better coordinate the WAP and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help lower these homeowners’ utility bills and save taxpayer money over the long term.


Projects supported by WAP include installing insulation, updating heating and cooling systems, upgrading electrical appliances, and taking other common-sense actions that make homes warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer with less energy usage. Since 1976, WAP has served over seven million households and delivered an average of $372 in annual energy savings for American families. The bipartisan infrastructure law increased funding for WAP to ten times current funding levels, which will expand weatherization services to more homes and create more jobs.


During the hearing, Senator Collins also addressed the issue of energy storage. Senator Collins was the lead author of the Better Energy Storage Technologies (BEST) Act, which became law in December 2020.  The legislation authorizes long-duration grid scale energy storage demonstration projects with the goal of strengthening the resiliency and reliability of the grid and making it more feasible to incorporate renewables like wind and solar.  The bipartisan infrastructure law provided $500 million for these demonstrations.


“My office has been contacted by several companies, including some in Maine, who are interested in accessing this funding. DOE has yet to issue any requests for information or otherwise provided details on how it plans to implement the demonstration program,” Senator Collins observed.  “When can we expect to see energy storage demonstration announcements from DOE?  This really is the holy grail of incorporating renewables is improving storage.”


Secretary Granholm said that there will be three areas funded with the $500 million investment: demonstrations; an energy storage pilot grant program; and long duration projects. She pledged to issue guidance very soon.





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