WASHINGTON – Amid surging inflation and energy price spikes, the Biden administration on Wednesday announced plans to spend roughly $3.2 billion to retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes in low-income communities with the aim of slashing Americans’ energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions.

The new funding from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill President Biden signed into law last year provides a massive boost to a federal home weatherization program that began during the 1970s oil crisis as a way to cut people’s heating bills. It allots funding to modernize eligible homes with cost-effective upgrades, adding insulation to attics, swapping older refrigerators and other appliances for new, more efficient models, and replacing leaky windows and doors.

Biden officials said the infusion of funding – a tenfold increase compared to the program’s current budget – means it will be able to serve 450,000 households. It currently retrofits about 38,000 homes a year.

Known as the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP, the program is broadly popular, especially among lawmakers from cold-weather states. Though Donald Trump proposed eliminating it in 2017, it survived and has become a little-known tool in the Biden administration’s efforts to fight climate change.

Burning fossil fuels for electricity in buildings and homes accounts for roughly 13% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, although some experts say the actual figure is higher.

Funding from the weatherization program, which is administered by states and Native American tribes, can be used to help homeowners switch from traditional gas or oil-burning furnaces and energy-hungry air conditioners to electric heat pumps. These can heat and cool homes at a much lower cost to the environment. Experts say these changes could ultimately slash the nation’s use of fossil fuels for home heating and electricity generation if they’re made on a large enough scale.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm emphasized the potential cost savings, noting that the program has lowered some families’ power bills by as much as 30%.

“For some people, these might seem like small changes, but actually they make a big and immediate impact,” Granholm said.

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