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The Deal on Climate

The Build Back Better Framework Agreement

Ari Matusiak

Ari Matusiak

CEO of Rewiring America

October 28, 2021

We applaud the leadership of President Biden and the U.S. Congress for designing and agreeing on the largest climate investment in history. Taken together with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, (now known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or the IIJA), the Build Back Better (BBB) investments are the imperative course we must take to deliver the emissions reductions that scientists unequivocally acknowledge are needed to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of our climate crisis.

With this must-pass framework before the Congress, the American people will finally have a direct role in addressing the crisis. For the first time, the nation’s 121 million households have been addressed as what they are: critical climate infrastructure. We spend more time in our homes than on our highways, and our analysis shows 42 percent of our energy emissions come from decisions families make around their kitchen tables: what cars they drive, how they heat their homes and water, how they cook, and how they dry their clothes. Both the BBB and the IIJA make significant investments in electrifying our lives, from rebates that make decarbonizing our homes the smart financial choice to EV chargers that make owning an electric vehicle more viable.

While much must still be done to decarbonize the supply side of our energy sector, the history-making focus on the demand side, where people live and jobs are created, is a strong American message to take to the world. Future investments and manufacturing leadership could mean America could supply the world with the heat pumps, induction stoves, and electric vehicles that are crucial to zeroing out our emissions. We couldn’t help but notice that the framework announcement listed home energy and efficiency tax credits and “a new, electrification-focused rebate program” at the top of its climate investments.

Our mission in the year and change that Rewiring America has existed has been to electrify everything, starting with our homes, in a way that helps all Americans. We have said throughout that electrification policies must do four things:

  1. bolster a home’s infrastructure through weatherization to reduce energy burden,
  2. provide point-of-sale rebates or other incentives like tax credits that make electrification more affordable, critically lessening the barrier of upfront costs for low- and moderate-income Americans,
  3. incentivize the contractors, builders, and distributors to carry and install these machines, and
  4. invest in American workers to do it all through workforce training programs.

Between the IIJA and the agreed-upon BBB Framework, Congress has developed programs that address each of these necessary elements. They do not do everything we need at the scale required, but they represent a transformative down payment toward meeting our climate goals.

The increased investments to the Weatherization Assistance Program, as well as investments like the Direct Loans and Grants for Energy or Water Efficiency or Climate Resilience of Affordable Housing or the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control and Housing Related Health and Safety Hazard Mitigation in Housing of Families with Low Incomes will help ensure all Americans can electrify their homes. The rebates and workforce training grants then provided by the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebates (formerly known as the Zero-Emission Homes Act) and the Home Energy Performance-Based, Whole-House Rebates and Training Grants will make electrification more affordable, create the demand to support new jobs, and train workers across the country. In addition, making electric machines eligible for tax credits and low-cost financing will make electrification practical for all homes.

These machines last a long time, so we cannot miss the opportunity to electrify and decarbonize whenever one comes up for replacement. Without passage of these two historic pieces of infrastructure investment and the market transformation they represent, the emissions reduction curve to 2050 will simply be too steep for us to overcome.

Successful enactment by Congress and the President of these measures will mean a series of “wins” for the American people: lower monthly bills, healthier air indoors and out, more local jobs that cannot be automated or outsourced installing these machines, and a personal role in saving our planet. In the coming weeks, we will continue the momentum as we work to support Congress in passing this historic legislation and work with leaders from our cities and some of our most successful companies to step up and say that America must lead the world in electrification.