Last Thursday, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitive Act (Shaheen-Portman) in the U.S. Senate for the third time. If passed, the newest version of the bill would be not only a huge bipartisan breakthrough in a perpetually gridlocked Congress, but also the most significant piece of energy legislation passed by the U.S. government in seven years. However, while the bill’s attributes—such as inclusion of the SAVE Act and the call for Energy Star-like programs for tenants and suppliers—have a number of advocates cheering, not everyone in the high-performance building realm is giving it the go-ahead.
The biggest sticking point thus far seems to lie in a small amendment added to the latest version of the bill. As previously reported, the “All-Of-The-Above Federal Building Energy Conservation Act of 2013” from Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is now part of Shaheen-Portman, and calls for the repeal of Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), which mandates that the federal government eliminate fossil fuel-generated energy from new and renovated federal buildings by 2030. It would, in short, repeal the government’s commitment to the 2030 Challenge targets for carbon reductions.
Where do the leading industry organizations stand on the bill thus far? We checked in with them shortly after the bill’s re-introduction.
The organization that issued the 2030 Challenge has been protesting the potential repeal of Section 433 since last year, stating that passing the Hoeven-Machin bill on its own or attaching it to the Shaheen-Portman bill is “a slap in the face of the U.S. building sector,” after it has been successfully reducing carbon emissions while continuing to add to the building stock. After the bill’s progress was derailed by the Federal government shutdown, the organization wrote that reducing the burning of fossil fuels is non-negotiable as the International Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report identified 2020 as the year global CO2 emissions must peak to avoid surpassing the maximum global carbon budget to avoid irreversible, dangerous damage to the Earth’s climate. Now included in the EISCA, the Section 433 repeal remains an absolute no-go for Architecture 2030 founder Ed Mazria, FAIA.
“Section 433 is critical because it has set reduction targets that the entire building sector has endorsed. For the Federal government to not be leading the way or, at the very least, be up there with the leading organizations, cities, and states, would set a tragic precedent,” says Mazria. “Getting one or two things in Shaheen-Portman while killing 433 is like saving a few BTUs but sacrificing the planet. It’s unconscionable when you think about the big picture.”
Instead, he says, “the building sector should be congratulated and held up as an example. We’re exceeding 2030 Challenge targets. Rolling back the targets or getting rid of them under the guise that they are not workable is a slap in the face to the states, cities, and organizations that instead are saving consumers hundreds of billions of dollars in energy costs—money that is being recycled back into other parts of the economy. You can’t tell people we must do this, have them demonstrate its efficacy, and then pull the rug out from under them. That’s what this repeal seeks to do.”
Last May, the AIA wrote a letter to Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), heads of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, opposing the repeal of EISA Section 433. The letter, which includes the signatures of over 1,000 companies and organizations, argues that the 2030 goals encourage better energy performance for federal buildings and save taxpayer’s money.
“This bill comes at a time when there is opportunity to do something really good and move forward with energy efficiency and the built environment. But it’s taking a big step backwards in terms of repealing these targets for federal buildings. It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Andrew Goldberg, AIA managing director of government relations. “Architects have made commitments for many years to design buildings that are more sustainable. It has been an important commitment of the AIA for the past 10 years to find ways to design buildings that use less energy and have a smaller carbon footprint. The good news is that architects are doing it—we’re finding ways to design better buildings. That’s why it’s important for the federal government to be a leader, because the government is the biggest landlord out there and it could really set an example. At the same time, we’re doing so much to move the ball forward and design buildings that use less energy and cost less. It would be a shame for the federal government to backtrack.”
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):
“It’s time to take delivery on the bill sponsors’ hard work and check extreme amendments at the door so we can begin implementing important efficiency gains that would benefit all Americans,” Frank Matzner, associate director of government affairs for NRDC, wrote on Switchboard, the NRDC’s staff blog, in response to the bill’s reintroduction.
While calling the bill “a commonsense approach to cutting energy waste in buildings, industry, and the federal government while saving billions of taxpayer dollars, creating tens of thousands of jobs, and cutting carbon pollution,” Matzner also notes that “Republican members will have to forego the ‘poison pill’ unrelated, controversial amendments that derailed previous versions.”
Click here to access the NRDC’s full analysis of the ESICA.
Alliance to Save Energy:
Both Portman and Shaheen are honorary vice chairs of the Alliance to Save Energy, which applauded the reintroduction of the bill and released a breakdown of 10 new provisions in this version of Shaheen-Portman that the organization says pushes the bill further than the original. It estimates the new version will save $16.2 billion annually, create 192,000 jobs, and avoid 95 million metric tons of CO2 by 2030--an increase from the $13.7 billion, 164,000 jobs, and 80.2 million metric ton reduction estimated with the bill’s prior version. “The reintroduction of this common-sense legislation reaffirms that energy efficiency is a bipartisan, cost-effective way to address our nation’s energy challenges,” Alliance president Kateri Callahan noted in a press release. “I’m thrilled to see Sens. Shaheen and Portman defying Washington gridlock and ensuring that energy efficiency leaps once again to the forefront of the national energy debate.”
Institute for Market Transformation:
IMT has long been a proponent of the SAVE Act, which aim to adjust the mortgage underwriting process to include a home’s expected energy cost savings in the financing process. The Act was introduced in Congress last June by Senators Bennet (D-Colo.) and Isakson (R-Ga.), and is now included in the Shaheen-Portman bill.
"IMT strongly supports the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2014 (Shaheen-Portman) and its incorporation of the SAVE Act for more efficient, affordable homes,” says Cliff Majersik, IMT’s executive director. “The SAVE Act is a huge win for American consumers, who will have greater access to mortgage credit to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. This will bring them significant savings on their monthly bills, better protect them from energy price shocks, and most importantly, allow them to live in healthier and more comfortable homes."
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy:
Last September, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) published a white paper on the bill, concluding that Sheehan-Portman will kickstart the economy with a boost in jobs and energy savings, along with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
“We have supported this bill from the initiation. It is essentially a gathering of a lot of bills that were out there a few years that we’ve been working on diligently for a number of years,” says ACEEE director of policy Suzanne Watson, adding that she is more optimistic than ever about the bill passing this time around, because of increased bipartisan activity. “The energy savings for the base bill itself, as it was crafted, was not as big of an outcome in terms of energy efficiency as we would’ve hoped to see. Of course we always want to see more efficiency, but what has ultimately come down now to what we have in front of us, with the building code piece being the biggest piece now added to the amendments, we find it a bit more robust in terms of energy savings.The SAVE Act that has been added, in particular, gives it a great deal of energy efficiency as an outcome.”
The USGBC and National Association of Home Builders were also contacted for comment, but at the time of press had not issued official responses to the bill.