Energy savings are on the minds of many in the U.S. Government right now, if the bills being introduced are any indication.

Earlier in the week Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) proposed the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act. The bill, referred to as the Shaheen-Portman Energy Bill, “will spur the use of energy efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors of our economy, while also fostering job creation,” proponents suggest.

It’s not the first time Portman has made such a proposal, though none have passed yet. There are some who are on board with the currently proposed bill, however, such as the Alliance to Save Energy, which supports the initiative.

Senators Portman and Shaheen have revamped their bill to use some of the best tools available to use energy more efficiently. These policies would strengthen the economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” ASE president Jason Hartke said in a press release. One of the most important things this bill does is to help states, Indian tribes, and local governments implement and enforce building energy codes, which are critical energy-saving opportunities.” There are too many homes, offices, and other buildings constructed in ways that will waste large amounts of energy, Hartke added. The bill, he said, would steer resources to local officials and homebuilders who can make improvements.

Currently, the bill is designed to strengthen national model building codes to make new homes and commercial buildings more energy-efficient, while working with states and private industry to make the code-writing process more transparent. If passed as is, it also would establish a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program to help make companies’ supply chains more efficient, and require the federal government to adopt energy saving techniques for computers, which in turn should save energy and taxpayer money.

While Hartke feels the bill is “better than ever” as it aims to use a variety of low-cost tools to reduce barriers for private sector energy users and drive adoption of off-the-shelf energy efficiency technologies, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has gone on record suggesting that the bill, as it currently stands, would hamper efforts to build more affordable housing—an already pressing issue across the country.

“NAHB supports efforts to promote energy efficiency but believes the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act introduced by Sens. Shaheen and Portman takes the wrong approach. Specifically, the legislation would harm housing affordability by imposing overly costly and aggressive energy efficiency requirements in model building energy codes,” opined Greg Ugalde, NAHB chairperson, a homebuilder and developer from Torrington, Conn. “Moreover, the bill would discourage states from adopting codes that meet their specific needs.” As written, NAHB would oppose the bill, Ugalde said.

Other Alternatives

However, NAHB is a supporter of The Energy Savings and Building Efficiency Act, proposed by Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Bill Flores (R-Texas), along with Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), Lou Correa (D-Calif.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn). As written, the act would “promote energy savings in residential and commercial buildings and industry, and for other purposes,” its language suggests.

“Bipartisan legislation introduced in the House by Representatives Kurt Schrader and Bill Flores offers a more cost-effective way to encourage energy efficiency,” Ugalde said of H.R. 3586. “The Energy Savings and Building Efficiency Act would accelerate cost-savings for homeowners by requiring that any code or proposal supported by the Department of Energy has a payback of 10 years or less.”

Officials for the American Wood Council (AWC) say their organization also supports H.R. 3586 and the product neutrality it offers.

The wood products industry supports economically and technically feasible building energy regulations, and this bill is a step toward removing prescriptive requirements in the code that mandate the use of particular products,” council vice president for Government Affairs Andrew Dodson said. “Product neutrality in the building energy codes allows all building materials to have equal opportunity to contribute to meeting building energy efficiency standards.”

Humanizing

While others are focusing on the materials used for energy-savings, House Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), proposed including people in the plan, with the “Blue Collar to Green Collar Jobs Development Act of 2019.” The Committee on Energy and Commerce recently passed the bill, labeled H.R. 1315, by unanimous vote, bringing it one step closer to establishing a nationwide program dedicated to educating and training underrepresented groups to pursue careers in clean energy industries. The bill has garnered full support from the Alliance to Save Energy.

Rep. Bobby Rush’s bill to train the next generation workforce has rightly won particular attention because it’s a smart solution to several challenges,” Hartke said. “There are 2.3 million energy efficiency jobs today, and more coming. But we also know that most employers across the energy efficiency industries report having trouble finding workers with the skills they need, all while many Americans struggle to find good-paying jobs. This bill would focus on bridging that gap by training women, people of color, veterans and others for energy jobs, including energy efficiency jobs.”

Rush’s bill isn’t the last to be placed before the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Additional bills include H.R. 2041, the “Weatherization Enhancement and Local Energy Efficiency Investment and Accountability Act” (Rep. Tonko), H.R. 2044, the “Smart Building Acceleration Act” (Rep. Welch), and H.R. 2665, the “Smart Energy and Water Efficiency Act of 2019” (Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Cal.).

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