Jan-Feb-March 2002


Energy-Efficient Windows Get the Attention of Congress
by Kate Offringa

Energy issues captured the attention of Congress during the first half of 2001, resulting in the passage of an energy bill in the House of Representatives that fall. Now energy is returning to the spotlight, with the Senate preparing to address the issues in the coming months.
Differences in the eventual two pieces of legislation (House bill HR 4 and the final Senate energy bill) will be addressed in conference after which both the House and the Senate must vote again to complete the legislative process.

On the Senate Side
The U.S. Senate is poised to consider tax credits for energy-efficient windows when it takes up energy legislation this winter. The Senate Finance Committee marked up a bill on February 4, 2002. Among several draft bills being considered by the committee, four bills (S 207, S 389, S 596, S 1709) include different tax credit provisions for energy-efficient windows. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) introduced an energy bill (S 1766) on the Senate floor in early December 2001. After the Finance Committee markup, tax-credit language will be added as an amendment to that bill.

The House Side of the Story
The U.S. House of Representa-tives passed a bill last fall that includes provisions for tax credits for energy-efficiency upgrades in residential buildings. The Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) Act 2001 (bill HR 4) proposes tax credits of up to $2,000 for certain energy-efficiency measures in existing homes and new residential construction. The energy-efficiency measures include energy-efficient windows, skylights and doors that meet certain criteria.

Highlights of the House Bill
The House bill authorizes a tax credit of 20 percent of expenditures on qualified energy-efficiency improvements for existing homes. Building envelope components are qualified if they meet the prescriptive criteria for such components as established by the 1998 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), with other stipulations about the existing home, and the life of the components. The total credit may not exceed $2,000 and is credited to the homeowner. 

There are certain limitations as to when this credit may be applied. For example, if the aggregate costs of the building envelope components exceed $1,000, those projects must document the performance of the components via rating or labeling information, and get a written third-party verification that the measures were installed.

The House bill would make available business credits for new construction to the contractor or the manufactured home producer in the case of manufactured housing. The credit is an amount equal to the aggregated adjusted bases of all energy-efficient property in a qualified new energy-efficient home not to exceed $2,000. 

As in the case for existing homes, there are a number of limitations on the application of this credit. A qualified new energy-efficient home is defined as (among other things) a home that is certified to have a level of annual heating and cooling energy consumption at least 30 percent below the annual level of heating and cooling energy consumption of a comparable dwelling constructed in accordance with the standards of the 1998 IECC.

The certification requirements for new construction projects will be based on a variety of elements including technical specifications, ratings, labeling or energy-performance software. 

This bill includes a number of other tax revisions, including a tax deduction for energy-efficient expenditures in new or reconstructed commercial buildings.

For more information on any of these bills go to http:// thomas.loc.gov

Kate Offringa is program manager of the Efficient Windows Collaborative, a project of the Alliance To Save Energy in Washington, D.C.


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