Recent Bipartisan Legislation is a Small but Significant Step Towards Improving Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is among the rare political issues that occasionally draw bipartisan support, providing an opportunity for members of both parties to find common ground in initiatives that benefit the environment while lowering utility costs.  One such initiative became law on April 30 when President Obama signed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015.  Coauthored by Senators Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, the Act represents an important, albeit modest, move towards bipartisan recognition of the importance of reducing energy consumption.  The Act is projected to create jobs, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and result in approximately $4.6 billion of annual energy savings by 2030.  Contributing to its widespread popularity is its estimated minimal cost to taxpayers and its lack of new government mandates.  With a focus on reducing energy usage in the commercial and residential spheres, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act contains three key provisions:

  • Better buildings provision: requires the EPA to create Tenant Star, a market-driven certification program within Energy Star that recognizes commercial tenants that voluntarily achieve high levels of energy efficiency.  Energy Star certifications currently serve as a way for building managers to demonstrate to the public that they are striving to limit energy usage.  There are no penalties for falling short of standards.  Considering that commercial buildings account for nearly 40 percent of the energy consumed in the U.S., building managers and tenants are in a prime position to reduce national usage.
  • Energy information for commercial buildings: requires buildings leased by federal agencies to benchmark their energy usage data if they do not have Energy Star labels and fulfill certain disclosure requirements regarding consumption.  This will enable building managers and occupants to gain a better understanding of how much energy they are really consuming so that they may recognize where improvements might be made.
  • Water heater efficiency: creates an exemption for certain grid-enabled water heaters used in thermal storage and demand response programs so that they may continue to be sold under the new efficiency standards.

The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 is a more limited version of a broader initiative that Senators Portman and Shaheen have been drafting for years.  Among other stipulations, the proposed bill would provide for training programs in energy efficient construction, programs to increase the efficiency of manufacturing facilities, and incentives for federal mortgage writers to include energy efficient systems in the values of homes.  The broader initiative has also enjoyed bipartisan support but its prospects for passage faded away last year after it became entangled in a political dispute over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

As an update May 28, 2015

Here is the schedule for the House Energy & Commerce Committee…nothing specific in their schedule discussion re: 179D…..However they are beginning the required discussion of Title IV. 

Committee Meeting

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Subcommittee on Energy and Power Meeting

“Discussion Draft on Accountability and Department of Energy Perspectives on Title IV: Energy Efficiency” (Location: RHOB 2322)

Check out our new committee meeting calendar.

Jun 3, 2015 2 p.m.

Committee Meeting

House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Subcommittee on Energy and Power Meeting

“Quadrennial Energy Review and Related Discussion Drafts” (Location: RHOB 2123)

Check out our new committee meeting calendar.

Jun 2, 2015 10 a.m.

Politicians are notorious for burying important issues in partisan rhetoric and bureaucratic gridlock.  However, when legislators can reach across the proverbial aisle to make strides on an issue that will benefit the environment while creating substantial savings for building owners and tenants, even seemingly modest initiatives must be celebrated as significant steps on the road to greater energy security.  Stay tuned!



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