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Can energy efficiency unlock the gridlock in Congress?

LUISAFREEMANThe traffic in Washington DC is reflective of the pace of legislative action on Capitol Hill—slow moving with little result. Yet, on March 5th, the House of Representatives passed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2014 (HR 2126) on a bipartisan vote of 375-36. Energy efficiency appears to be one topic on which Republicans and Democrats agree.

Supported by various groups including the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the US Green Buildings Council, this bill addresses the barrier to achieving increased efficiency in leased commercial, industrial, and government spaces and will encourage the use of benchmarking tools and greater transparency regarding energy use in commercial buildings. More specifically, it includes:

  • An offspring of ENERGY STAR to be called “Tenant Star” is part of The Better Buildings Act to encourage commercial building tenants to save energy through a recognition program and development of “green leases;”
  • Provisions for federal building efficiency improvements through The Energy Efficient Government Technology Act which requires development of strategies to implement energy-saving information technologies for building energy management and to improve efficiency of federal data centers.

Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) summed up the basis for the collaboration by noting “Saving energy creates jobs, saves money and improves the environment.” It’s hard to argue against that.

It’s important to remember, though, that the Act doesn’t become law until the Senate acts, and President Obama signs (the latter being more likely than the former). Even so, it’s possible the love fest may continue as the provisions of the House bill appear in the current version of the Senate’s energy efficiency bill (S. 2074), sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), plus additional measures. It will be interesting to see if this Spring thaw in the relations between Republicans and Democrats on energy efficiency will continue.

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