For a U.S. Congress that hasn't passed a major energy bill since 2007, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, co-sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), could be a huge bipartisan breakthrough. Although the bill failed to proceed through Congress in 2011 or 2013, the legislation is set to be re-introduced for a third try shortly. However, this time the bill could be taken down by an amendment that targets the federal government's 2030 fossil fuel reduction mandate.
More commonly known as the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill, the legislation proposes strengthening building codes for homes and commercial buildings, supports a training program for workers in construction, directs the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to partner with the private sector in research of new technologies, and requires the federal government—the single largest energy consumer in the country—to reduce its energy consumption per gross square foot each year until 2030.
Other energy-efficiency measures of note in an advanced copy of the bill obtained by EcoBuilding Pulse include provisions calling for enhanced underwriting practices to better reflect home energy costs in loans, and the introduction of two energy programs: Tenant Star and Supply Star. Tenant Star is a voluntary program that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the DOE would be required to create as a subset of the EPA’s Energy Star program. Tenant Star would evaluate energy performance in commercial buildings, rewarding those tenants who meet or exceed high performance standards. Supply Star, meanwhile, would be a DOE pilot program partnering with Energy Star to award companies with grants or other incentives, technical support, and training needed to improve efficiency in their supply chains.
However, while the above initiatives have garnered cheers from the energy efficiency community, a new amendment in the pending version is drawing jeers for proposing a repeal of the federal government's mandate to eliminate its buildings' consumption of fossil fuels by 2030.
The amendment in question originated as the "All-Of-The-Above Federal Building Energy Conservation Act of 2013," which was introduced by Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) on May 23, 2013. The proposal called for the repeal of Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which mandates that new and renovated federal buildings eliminate fossil fuel-generated energy consumption by 2030. In its place, Hoeven and Manchin proposed extending current energy efficiency targets from a 30 percent reduction by 2015 to a 45 percent reduction by 2020. The bill was introduced as a singular piece of legislation but is now intended as an amendment to Sheehan-Portman.
The American Gas Association (AGA) has been a main proponent of the repeal of Section 433. Advocates of the repeal claim that the 2030 carbon-reduction targets are not achievable goals, because they lead to a ban on fossil fuels and are not compliant with the renovation of older buildings. They also argue that despite the proposed efficiency and greenhouse gas standards, combined heat and power generation would be unacceptable under the provision.
In response, the architectural community—which helped pass the EISA provision in 2007—responded to news of the pending amendment with a letter signed by almost 1,000 companies urging senators to oppose the repeal of Section 433, arguing that the current standard makes federal buildings more energy efficient, saves taxpayer money, and allows the government to introduce new technologies and materials into the economy.
Could the bill's success in passing mean the death of carbon-neutral federal buildings by 2030? EcoBuilding Pulse will be tracking the Sheehan-Portman Bill as it is reintroduced. Stay tuned for more coverage and industry response.