Reducing Energy Costs for Wisconsin Families

Home energy use is one of the main drivers of climate change in Wisconsin. Leaky, energy-inefficient homes require enormous amounts of power to heat and cool. This wasted energy burdens families with huge bills and increases air pollution, accelerating climate change. 

Right now, we have a powerful opportunity to protect our climate and lower costs for families. President Biden has invested massive federal resources in a rebate program, which slashes the upfront costs for energy-saving home upgrades, like installing insulation or new windows. Pres. Biden tasked each state with figuring out how to make sure that homeowners at all income levels can put these funds to use.

If these federal funds are handled properly, 100% of home energy upgrades will be fully covered for lower-income Wisconsinites. Moderate-income families will be able to afford upgrades, too. This will result in a dramatic reduction in air pollution and in cost saving for families. But we have to make sure these funds are used as intended. 

Focus on Energy, a private group overseen by the state’s Public Service Commission, is in charge of developing a program to get these federal funds to homeowners. The problem is that power companies–who earn huge profits when your house is drafty and you crank up the thermostat to stay warm–could have an outsize voice in this process. We want to make sure that the public interest prevails. We need this program to be free from cost barriers so all homeowners can make energy upgrades by using the federal funds already set aside for them. 

Energy companies and fossil fuel companies have armies of lobbyists who will fight for their profits. We need to make sure they hear us, too! That’s why we are calling on Focus on Energy to design a program that works for everyday people. Sign the petition here by April 15, 2024. 

We are asking Focus on Energy to adopt two key policies:

  1. Make the program retroactive, so that if you invested in home energy upgrades this tax year, you can get your upgrades covered. 

  2. Even though the federal rebates slash the price on home energy upgrades for all consumers, the initial start-up cost may still be too high for some families. Focus on Energy should use its power to cover 100% of expenses for low income families, and should also provide appropriate financial incentives for moderate-income homeowners, who also may need extra support to use the federal rebate funds set aside for them.

Now is our chance to help our neighbors fix up their homes and protect our climate–but our success depends on each one of us taking action, before Focus on Energy makes their final decision. Their choice will determine whether President Biden’s federal funds primarily help higher income people, or whether they include everyone and make a dramatic reduction in our state’s carbon emissions. Funding decisions don’t have to go through the legislature, which means this process will move quickly.  Public comment closes Monday, April 15th, 2024. Make your voice heard today. 

If you’d like additional background, policy information, and links to additional resources, we have included that below. 

Policy Information 

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), championed by President Biden was signed into law on August 16, 2022, marking a historic investment in America’s clean energy future and economic resilience.

The Inflation Reduction Act offers a transformative opportunity through Home Energy Rebate programs (HOMES and HEAR) aimed at making homes more energy-efficient and reducing utility bills. 

Administered by Focus on Energy, these rebates are poised to support Wisconsin households in making significant strides towards residential efficiency, electrification, and the adoption of renewable energy solutions, enhancing energy efficiency and sustainability across the state.

The HOMES rebate program is designed to financially assist homeowners in upgrading their homes to be more energy-efficient, reducing energy consumption and lowering utility bills. Similarly, the HEAR rebates aim to make it easier and more affordable for families to switch to energy-efficient appliances and systems. With both programs, funding will be made available between 2023 through September 30, 2031. 

The HOMES has $74 million dollars in funding in Wisconsin and is about enhancing home energy efficiency improvements. Improvements often include air sealing, attic and basement insulation, duct sealing, and sometimes, the installation of high-efficiency furnaces and heat pumps. A key feature of the HOMES program is its ability to combine rebates with other incentives, such as those from Focus on Energy, potentially covering up to 100% of the cost for qualifying low-income households for insulation projects. 

Illustrative Example of Program Impact: A North Side Milwaukee resident earning less than 80% of the median income who achieves a 20% energy reduction from adding attic insulation (to “R-60”), sealing air leaks, insulating basement rim joists, adding a smart thermostat and a collection of other improvements could see their project mostly or even fully paid for by the Inflation Reduction Act and related improvements receives $4,000 from the Inflation Reduction Act for the 20% reduction plus $2,025 from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program for attic/basement insulation & sealing. This means projects that cost $6,025 would be at no cost to the homeowner. Union workers such as those at Green Homeowners United can create good jobs cutting emissions and saving clients money and still come in within that amount.

How the rebate works: Under the HOMES and HEAR programs, participants who complete eligible energy-efficient upgrades in their homes receive direct financial payments after the work is done. For the HOMES program, homeowners undergo an energy assessment to identify potential savings, and then aim to implement changes that achieve at least a 20% reduction in energy usage. This process ensures that investments are targeted and effective, leading to significant energy savings and cost reductions for participating households.

We asking the Public Service Commission for two key policies: 

1) Allowing Rebates to be Retroactive

We urge Wisconsin to follow the Inflation Reduction Act guidelines allowing rebates from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to be backdated to January 2024 to ensure early adopters of energy-efficient home upgrades are rightfully compensated. This change will broaden the impact of the IRA, rewarding proactive Wisconsin families and supporting our collective goals of climate action and equity. 

2) HOMES Program Rebate Adjustments for Low-Income Households: 

We advocate for the empowerment of Wisconsin’s low-income families through enhanced rebates, potentially covering up to 100% of project costs, up to $10,000. This option not only aligns with the spirit of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) by making energy efficiency more accessible but also represents a significant step toward environmental and economic equity. 

Your Voice Matters: 

Your support can shape the future of energy in Wisconsin. By endorsing these alternatives, you’re championing an equitable approach to energy efficiency, ensuring that the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act reach those who need them most. Let’s stand together for a greener, cleaner, and equitable Wisconsin.

To show your support, sign this petition with Citizen Action of Wisconsin and Green Homeowners United, by April 15th, 2024. 

Thank you for your support,

Questions? Reach out to Citizen Action of Wisconsin Climate Coordinator Kat Klawes at [email protected].  


  • Read the Public Service Commission memorandum concerning the State of Wisconsin’s application for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Rebate Programs HERE
  • Read the IRA Guidebook HERE
  • Review Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy’s IRA rebates HERE.
  • View comments submitted to the Public Service Commission (PSC) here