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Sens. Portman, Shaheen Persevere on Bipartisan Energy Efficiency Policy

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It took three years of work and a 4 a.m. vote by just two senators, cosponsors Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), for the U.S. Senate to pass a stand-alone, bipartisan energy efficiency bill. Their long-awaited triumphant moment came after what what Politico called an "overnight budget vote-o-rama." With the House of Representatives working on a companion bill, it's possible that energy efficiency legislation could be enacted this year.  

The 2015 version of their Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC) would reduce energy use in many sectors of the U.S. economy, including low-income housing, commercial buildings, the federal government – the nation’s single largest energy user – schools and manufacturing.

Housing Provisions

Based on an amendment originally introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the bill would authorize the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to undertake energy and water efficiency upgrades to HUD-assisted multi-family housing. A provision in President Obama’s FY 2016 budget request includes a provision authorizing HUD to facilitate financing of such efficiency projects.

ESIC also requires federal mortgage agencies to include energy efficiency in determining a home’s value and affordability.

In the manufacturing area, the bill expands the definition of energy service provider to include companies that improve water efficiency. The bill also includes provisions that would improve energy efficiency in federal buildings and data centers.

Overall, the bill incentivizes the use of efficiency technologies that:

  • Are commercially available today;
  • Can be widely deployed across the country; and
  • Quickly pay for themselves through energy savings.

Bipartisan Appeal

In a joint statement, the co-sponsors say their deficit-neutral bill is widely supported on both sides of the political aisle, as well as by industry leaders, energy efficiency advocates and environmental stakeholders.

“Energy efficiency is the cheapest and fastest way to address our energy challenges,” said Shaheen. The bill would “create jobs, save consumers billions and drastically reduce pollution in a smart, effective and affordable way,” she continued.

 “Our bill is the equivalent of taking 37 million homes off the grid,” Portman added.

Savings Quantified

The senators’ statement quoted a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, an ECC board member, estimating that ESIC would, by 2030:

  • Create more than 190,000 jobs;
  • Save consumers $16.2 billion a year; and
  • Cut CO2 emissions and other air pollutants by the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road.

According to the Alliance to Save Energy, the avoided CO2 would amount to 95 million metric tons a year. The Alliance says the bill would also:

  • Create a national strategy to increase the use of energy efficiency through a model building energy code;
  • Promote development of energy efficient supply chains for companies; and
  • Promote the benchmarking and disclosure of buildings’ energy use.

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