Senators Reintroduce Energy Legislation
by Ben Gann
Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) have renewed their efforts on energy efficiency with the reintroduction of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S.761), better known as Shaheen-Portman. The senators are optimistic that the deficit-neutral proposal will help attract bipartisan support. An identical bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1616) has been introduced by Representatives David McKinley (R-W.V.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.)
Similar energy-efficiency legislation introduced last year by the Senators cleared the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. WDMA supported last year’s legislation that was endorsed by a diverse group of more than 200 organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Several provisions of that legislation, which focus on industrial and federal agency efficiency, were signed into law in December as part of a manufacturing efficiency bill.
The legislation passed last year focused primarily on research, such as identifying best practices for advanced metering, requiring federal facilities to track energy and water consumption and asking the Department of Energy (DOE) to examine barriers to energy efficiency in the industrial sector.
Building upon the earlier congressional support for energy efficiency, the new bill embraces a bipartisan approach to spur the use of energy-efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.
The current version does differ in some significant ways from the bill in the last Congress. Provisions requiring the DOE to expand its loan program to fund energy-efficiency retrofits of buildings and the establishment of a revolving loan program for state Industrial Energy Efficiency Partnerships have been dropped following opposition from Senate Republicans.
Instead, the latest version calls for a state-based private financing program to encourage industrial energy efficiency upgrades. Also of interest to manufacturers, the legislation establishes a new DOE program called Supply Star to enhance the efficiency of companies’ supply chains.
WDMA continues to monitor the focus of the legislation on national model building codes. Last year, we were concerned by an early version of the bill that would have established a “zero-net-energy” building performance goal by 2030. However, after negotiations with Sens. Shaheen and Portman that language was removed and no longer includes provisions to create a de facto federal energy code administered by DOE.
Any increase in efficiency standards for new building codes would be completely voluntary. The agency is still allowed to offer building-efficiency targets, as part of the International Energy Efficiency Code (IECC) and ASHRAE Standard 90.1, but Shaheen-Portman requires DOE to establish all targets and determinations related to national model codes through public notice and comment rulemaking procedures.
The bill does require DOE to make publicly available the analysis and methodology it uses to calculate energy savings as IECC/ASHRAE codes and standards are revised from one version to the next, and incorporates economic considerations, including “return on investment” and small business impact review analysis. Consideration is also given to building occupant behaviors and “plug load” uses as energy targets are developed and adjusted and there are allowances for separate targets for residential and commercial buildings.
As an incentive for states to adopt the standards set by DOE, additional funding will be available to those states that achieve and document full compliance with both the residential and commercial building energy codes.
Ben Gann is director of legislative affairs and grassroots activities for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C.
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