Energy Efficiency Legislation Shows Congress Can Work Together

Energy Efficiency Legislation Shows Congress Can Work Together

BY Chris McManes Posted: 5 Jun 2015

On 30 April, President Obama signed into law the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015. The legislation is designed to reduce pollution, save money and strengthen the economy by:

  • Establishing energy-consumption best practices for tenants renting space in commercial buildings
  • Creating a Tenant Star certification program modeled after Energy Star
  • Exempting from pending Department of Energy regulation certain electric-resistance water heaters used for demand response
  • Requiring federally leased buildings without Energy Star labels to benchmark & disclose their energy usage data, where practical

The bill, cosponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), was originally introduced last year but failed to move. It passed the Senate in March and the House of Representatives on 23 April.

Said Shaheen in a statement: “On the bill’s merits – creating jobs, saving consumers money and reducing pollution – it was never a hard sell. The tough part was convincing Washington to not play politics with a good idea.  But persistence has paid off, and this legislation is a small but significant victory over legislative gridlock.”

IEEE-USA, through its Energy Policy Committee, defines energy efficiency as “the ability to provide the same or better product or service, using less energy.” The organization holds the concept in such high regard that it has incorporated a position statement on the subject into its comprehensive National Energy Policy Recommendations.

“IEEE-USA views the pursuit of energy efficiency, in all sectors of the economy, as an essential element to achieve energy security and economic growth,” IEEE-USA Government Relations Director Russ Harrison said. “We are pleased that Congress and President Obama have passed this common-sense, bipartisan energy-efficiency measure.”

Many people probably think of energy efficiency in their homes or businesses when they, for example, switch to LED light bulbs, replace an old appliance, put solar panels on their roof or install new windows or more insulation to reduce heating and cooling bills. The less money one spends on energy, the more it is available for other things, both necessary and fun.

And because 66 percent of U.S. electricity is produced by burning coal and natural gas – thus releasing harmful emissions into the atmosphere – anything that reduces energy usage lessens the negative impact on the environment. Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont authored the original legislation with West Virginia Republican David McKinley.

“I have long believed that energy efficiency is an issue that lends itself to looking past partisan differences to find common ground in Congress,” Welch said in a statement. “We may disagree on the causes of climate change and the best fuel mix to meet America’s energy needs, 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.”

Portman introduced a larger energy efficiency bill, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, earlier this year. It has six Republican cosponsors and seven Democratic, including Shaheen. Witnesses testified on energy efficiency during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on 30 April.

“Our targeted energy efficiency bill has garnered widespread support because of a simple fact – it is good for the economy and good for the environment,” Portman said in a statement. “This is an important part of our energy plan for America that can help bring jobs back, help make our manufacturers more competitive, and actually help to protect the environment.

“I’m pleased that it is now headed to the president for signature, and will continue to work for passage of my larger bill and a national energy strategy that boosts American workers while protecting the environment at the same time.”

The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 has been endorsed by, among others, the Real Estate Roundtable, National Association of Homebuilders, the Alliance to Save Energy, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Chris McManes is IEEE-USA’s public relations manager.

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