Energy efficiency legislation gains traction in Washington

Lawmakers are hopeful 2014 will be a successful year for energy efficiency legislation, building off the momentum of House passage of a bipartisan energy efficiency bill on March 5.

Passage of the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act, H.R. 2126, was the result of months of negotiations, said Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., in a news release on his website. Welch cosponsored the bill with Republican Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia.

“I have long believed that energy efficiency is an area of common ground in this divided Congress,” Welch said during floor debate. “Saving energy creates jobs, saves money and improves the environment. We have disagreements on the causes of climate change and the best fuel mix to meet America’s energy demands, but we can all agree that using less is more.  We can all agree that creating demand for American-made energy efficient products will create good jobs.  And we can all agree that cutting the energy bills of homeowners, businesses and the federal government is a good thing.”

The bill creates an energy efficiency best practice program for commercial building tenants called Tenant Star, modeled after the existing Energy Star program. The program could cut utility bills for commercial landlords and tenants by an estimated $2 billion by 2030, according to a blog post by Wendy Fok, director of the High Performance Demonstration Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Center for Market Innovation.

The bill requires federal agencies implement strategies to increase their own energy efficiency measures and establishes a benchmarking process for energy consumed in federal buildings. It also paves the way for the manufacture of large-scale water heaters so residential users can curb energy demand during peak hours.

The bill’s passage has Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., excited to continue to push the Shaheen-Portman Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, an energy efficiency bill she cosponsored with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, that died during the 2013 federal funding debate.

“With energy efficiency, we have the fastest, most cost-effective way to address our energy needs all the while creating jobs and growing our economy,” Shaheen said in a statement on her website. “I’m eager to build on the bipartisan momentum from the House and work with my colleagues in the Senate to pass my energy efficiency bill with Sen. Portman.”

The Shaheen-Portman bill, re-introduced in late February, is necessary to spur the widespread use of energy efficiency technology, according to an article by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Energy efficiency has also gained support at the executive level, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget request “resoundingly reaffirms the administration’s goal of doubling the nation’s energy productivity by 2030,” the Alliance said in a news release. It also called for funding for energy efficiency programs at the Department of Energy and other agencies, which is inline what is proposed in the Shaheen-Portman bill.

Read the March 7 Public Power Daily article on the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act.