Added Legislative Push Toward Energy Efficiency

July 1st, 2013 by DWM Magazine

What began as a trickle has suddenly cascaded as of late into a legislative rush toward improved energy efficiency, leading many industry experts and others optimistic that a more effective national standard is soon on the way.

President Barack Obama’s speech at Georgetown University last Tuesday was just the latest call for a concerted national effort to simultaneously reduce energy consumption, encourage job growth and lower environmentally-harmful carbon gas emissions.

Obama pledged in 2009 that the United States would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020.

The call for action echoed sentiments introducing the Shaheen-Portman Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act. The bi-partisan bill, sponsored by U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), calls for state-based commercial energy-efficiency programs that leverage private financing.

Rich Walker, AAMA’s president and CEO, feels that costly rulemaking has deterred energy-efficient improvements to date.

“We would welcome any Congressional or regulatory intervention on executing a well thought-out and organized national campaign to improve energy efficiency,” he said, “and we are hopeful that the final Shaheen-Portman bill will be a giant leap toward achieving that goal.”

First introduced a year ago, the legislation is designed to increase the use of energy-efficiency technologies all across the economy, while also creating jobs and making the nation more environmentally-friendly with decreased emissions. It also calls for strengthening energy-efficiency requirements in building codes, making supply chains more efficient and requiring efficiency measures in the federal government and encouraging energy-efficiency upgrades, such as high-performance glass and window products as recommended in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), at industrial facilities.

The Senate is expected to take up the measure as early as August.

But the proposed statute is just one of several currently being considered in both houses of Congress. Here’s a look at some other pending Senate legislation dealing with energy efficiency.

All-Of-The-Above Federal Building Energy Conservation Act: Introduced by Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), this proposed bill would make federal buildings reduce the energy intensity of its buildings by 3 percent each year compared to a 2005 baseline, ending in a 45 percent reduction by 2020.

Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act: Introduced in June by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Co.), the bill would direct the Secretary of Energy (DOE), acting through the Office of Energy and Renewable Energy, to act as the lead federal agency for coordinating and disseminating information on existing federal programs and assistance that may be used to help initiate, develop, and finance energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy retrofitting projects for schools.

State Energy Race to the Top Initiative Act: Introduced by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Manchin , the bill would retrofit old buildings and remote metering at the household and office level, creating an estimated 1.3 million jobs while cutting carbon emissions and boosting economic output.

Weatherization, Enhancement and Local Energy Efficiency Investment and Accountability Act: Sponsored by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the bill would assist low-income families that lack the resources to make their homes safer, healthier, and more energy efficient. Administered by the Department of Energy, the program would be responsible for energy efficiency upgrades in more than 7.4 million homes across the country, including more than one million homes in just the last four years.

Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act: Sponsored by Sen. Shaheen, the bill is designed to foster energy savings in residential and commercial buildings and industry and for other purposes.

Local Energy Supply and Resiliency Act: Sponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), the bill would help industry, universities, hospitals, and others capture waste heat and use renewables for heating, cooling, and power generation. It will also strengthen our ability to keep the lights on, keep buildings comfortable, and enable uninterrupted business operations.

SAVE Act: Sponsored by Sens. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the legislation is designed to improve the accuracy of mortgage underwriting used by federal mortgage agencies by including a home’s expected energy cost savings when determining the value and affordability of energy efficient homes.

Legislation currently under consideration in the House of Representative includes:

The Better Buildings Act: Introduced by Representatives David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Peter Welch (R-Vt.), this bill would facilitate better alignment, cooperation, and best practices between commercial real estate landlords and tenants regarding energy efficiency in buildings.

Residential Energy and Economic Savings Act: Sponsored by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), the bill would establish a grant program to assist retail power providers with the establishment and operation of energy conservation programs using targeted residential tree-planting, and for other purposes.

The Alliance to Save Energy says it looks forward to further progress.

“We emphatically support the call for enhancing appliance standards, developing heavy-duty vehicle fuel economy standards, strengthening federal building efficiency, expanding the Better Buildings Challenge, and renewing emphasis on efficiency through USDA and HUD programs,” it said in a statement. “If we can achieve this goal, the U.S. can cut carbon emissions by a third below 2005 levels and reduce nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide by about one half.”

John Hollis is a contributing editor DWM magazine.

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