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'Cash for Caulkers' aims to make Americans greener at home

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To attract homeowners, Home Star will offer two tracks of incentives. The first, “Silver Star,” track subsidizes the purchase of services, like roof installation, as well as products, like efficient windows and furnaces. The incentives will be designed to get homeowners and businesses to try the program.

The second, “Gold Star,” track offers incentives tied to overall reductions in a home’s energy usage. A 20 percent reduction in energy output would be eligible for $3,500 in rebates, with each 5 percent of additional energy savings adding $1,500 in incentives. The government would fund no more than 50 percent of any project’s total cost.

Gold Star’s bigger financial incentives are aimed at getting larger energy savings, treating a home as a system rather than as disparate parts, says Matt Golden, president of a San Francisco-based home-retrofitting firm and a leading player in creating the program. “We need to make sure the investments that we’re making right now will be sustainable and will have a long-term impact.”

A green training challenge

Key to the program’s success will be the training and certification of a new green workforce. “We can’t afford many stories of people who paid for work and didn’t save any money,” says Kevin Pranis, research director of the green economy project at Change To Win, a labor group.

The number of groups able to train and license green contractors is growing quickly, says Larry Zarker, CEO of the Building Performance Institute, based in Malta, N.Y. By the end of 2010, he expects around 350 such affiliates to be up and running, training 12,000 to 15,000 contractors a year, up from about 8,000 in 2009.

Likewise, the Laborers Inter-national Union of America (LIUNA) has set up training programs in several cities throughout the country aimed at green job training. By reaching out to Americans like Pittman, LIUNA hopes to tap into both the 1.6 million workers let go by the construction industry since 2006 and the more than 15 million unemployed overall.

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