Electric car and heat pump tax credits will help low-income Oregonians, politicians say – Oregon Capital Chronicle
Sammie Lewis of North Portland no longer has a home energy bill. His house was recently insulated and upgraded with solar panels and a heating and cooling pump.
She updated her home with help from a local nonprofit that leverages state and federal grants and tax rebates to help low-income Oregonians make their homes energy efficient. .
Thousands of Oregonians and millions across the country should be able to make similar upgrades with help from the federal Inflation Reduction Act, donors say. Adopted in August, it directs $385 billion towards the fight against climate change, largely through tax incentives, rebates and subsidies for renewable energy projects, from the level of companies to the level of households. .
For the Portland-based nonprofit Community Energy Project, the money will help many low-income residents. The nonprofit organization offers free energy efficiency services, supplies and repairs to low-income residents. It helped Lewis with the paperwork, paid for the equipment and the installation.
“They came to my rescue,” Lewis said.
The bill will help many more people like Lewis, said Charity Fain, the project’s executive director.
“We now have more money to do more work that interests us the most,” Fain said.
She and Lewis were guests at a panel in Portland on Tuesday hosted by U.S. Representatives Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer, both Democrats from Oregon, and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also a Democrat. The leaders, who each played a significant role in getting the bill passed, said all Oregonians stand to benefit, not just those with enough money to buy new cars and new houses.
Pelosi said Oregon’s rapid adoption of renewable energy and the work of nonprofits helping lower-income Oregonians convert to renewable energy was exemplary.
“I think what I’m hearing here is a model for the country,” she said.
Blumenauer, who helped shape the tax credits in the bill, said the bill will allow more people to buy electric cars.
The federal package includes a rebate of $7,500 for the purchase of a new electric vehicle and $4,000 for a used vehicle. Combined with those offered by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregonians could get $15,000 off a new electric vehicle and up to $8,000 off a used vehicle .
Blumenauer said the bill will encourage people who have electric cars that are a few years old to upgrade to a new one, expanding the supply of more affordable used versions.
“I think you’re going to be amazed at how quickly this turnover is happening,” he said.
The bill also includes $9 billion for home energy rebates and allows homeowners to reclaim almost a third of the costs from their income taxes. Non-profit organizations like Community Energy Project will be able to help people achieve these returns.
Blumenauer said the bill will also help people who aren’t buying cars or homes.
“You don’t have to buy a house to get better insulation or heat pumps,” he said. Tenants, businesses and landlords will benefit, he said.
“They all have the opportunity, with these items, to reduce the things that will make a difference to climate change and their bills,” he said.
The bill allocates more than $1 billion to the Federal Housing Administration to improve environmental conditions in public and subsidized housing projects, provide better access to transportation and improve safety in disadvantaged communities.
Another panelist, Ernesto Fonseca, CEO of Hacienda CDC, a Portland-based nonprofit that helps low-income people access affordable housing, said his organization would use tax incentives to help make the 600 homes they’ve built since 1986 are more energy efficient. He said it would save residents money in the long run. Hacienda serves over 3,000 people, mostly Latinos from North and Northeast Portland. Fonseca said electric vehicle incentives will improve the well-being of people who live in Hacienda homes, which are disproportionately located near highways.
Rebates of up to 100% of the cost of electric heavy-duty vehicles, such as school buses and garbage trucks, are also in the package, improving air quality for everyone, panelists said.
For Lewis, the transformation into a solar-powered home has been transformational. And it’s the one she’s trying to convince her neighbors to sign up too.
She said that every time she received her bill over the past three months, she was amazed. “My head would be spinning,” she told the panel.
She now has credit with Portland General Electric.