Many consumers across the U.S. should soon see $600 payments in their bank accounts, thanks to a $900 billion stimulus package passed by Congress. Although headlines focused on financial assistance, the federal legislation also encourages energy efficiency and extends an important benefit for people who want to go solar.
The relief bill became law on Dec. 27. Here’s a summary of its energy-related provisions:
The package includes the Energy Act of 2020 and the Energy for the Environment Act, which contain new provisions for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program. The federal program reduces energy costs for low-income households by increasing their efficiency.
According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the bill helps the program address more than weatherization, and now includes assistance for health and safety issues in homes as well as solar installations.
The DOE program creates 8,500 jobs and provides weatherization services to about 35,000 homes each year. These households save, on average, $283 each year as a result of the program.
To apply for weatherization assistance, visit this website.
Solar tax credit
The package also extends many special energy tax credits that were set to expire at the end of 2020. Notably for Illinois consumers, the Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC) was extended. This ITC allows consumers to deduct a percentage of their solar project costs from their federal taxes. For solar installations that begin construction by the end of 2022, consumers can deduct 26 percent. The benefit drops to 22 percent for installations that begin by the end of 2023, and in 2024, the credit disappears entirely for residential customers.
This incentive does not depend on how much energy your solar system produces, but you must pay federal taxes to benefit. For more information on the solar ITC, visit this Department of Energy fact sheet.
The package also includes a 5-year 30 percent ITC for new offshore wind facilities, including inland waters like the Great Lakes.
Power grid upgrades
Electric grid modernization was another dominant feature of the package’s utility provisions. Congress authorized programs to model, test and develop technologies for a more secure, reliable grid. Along with a slew of other provisions to move along modernization, the Department of Energy was permitted to work on integrating renewable energy and electric vehicles onto the grid.
Water Bill Assistance
The legislation also provides $638 million in funding to the Department of Health and Human Services to create a new Low-Income Household Drinking Water and Wastewater Emergency Assistance Program. The new program and funding would be used to help low-income households afford their water bills.
The relief package also includes:
- The Protecting Our Infrastructure of Pipelines Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act of 2020, which directs the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to create rules requiring operators of natural gas gathering, transmission, and distribution pipelines to conduct methane leak detection and repair programs.
- A national goal to allow at least 25 gigawatts of renewable electricity on federal lands.
Note: The legislation also created the Emergency Rental Assistance program, providing $25 billion in funding for renters that can go to rent and utilities. We will provide more information on how to apply for those funds when it’s available.