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U.S. House Passes Building Energy Bill

Thursday, March 13, 2014

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A bipartisan bill that would hold commercial tenants to new energy usage standards has sailed through the U.S. House on a 375-36 vote.

The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act (H.R. 2126), authored by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), which passed March 4, is the first significant bipartisan energy initiative approved by the House in the 113th Congress. Similar legislation has also been introduced in the Senate.

Architect of Capitol

Architect of the Capitol

The bill's sponsors say it will establish energy efficiency best practices for tenants in commercial building spaces. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill March 4.

Co-sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), the bill represents the culmination of months of negotiations within the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, on which Welch and McKinley both serve.

The Senate received the measure March 6 and referred it to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

'Tenant Star'

Tenant spaces in commercial buildings account for more than half of a building’s total energy consumption.

Aiming to achieve optimal performance levels in commercial buildings, the measure would establish energy-efficiency best practices for commercial tenants.

A key provision would create a new "Tenant Star" certification program, modeled after the Energy Star program that certifies commercial buildings as highly energy efficient.

Energy Efficiency: ‘Common Ground’

"I have long believed that energy efficiency is an area of common ground in this divided Congress,” Welch said during floor debate on the bill.

 

“[…] We have disagreements on the causes of climate change and the best fuel mix to meet America’s energy demands, but we can all agree that using less is more. 

“We can all agree that creating demand for American-made energy efficient products will create good jobs. And we can all agree that cutting the energy bills of homeowners, businesses and the federal government is a good thing.”

4 Key Parts

The Act has four key components, sponsors say. It:

  • Establishes energy-efficiency best practices for tenants renting space in commercial buildings and creates a Tenant Star certification program;
  • Requires federal agencies to implement strategies to increase the efficiency of energy-consuming data centers they operate;
  • Removes a regulatory barrier to the manufacture of large-scale water heaters, which act as residential energy storage devices and allow utilities to curb energy demand during peak hours; and
  • Establishes a benchmarking and disclosure process for energy consumed in federally leased buildings.  

Show of Support

Numerous industry groups have applauded the bill’s passage.

The Real Estate Roundtable called the measure a “smart, common-sense bill that takes a voluntary, market-based approach to align commercial landlords and tenants to reduce demands on the power grid.”

The bill is a “triple win” that would spur job growth, improve energy security, and preserve the environment by reducing greenhouse gases., said the Roundtable, comprised of senior principals from America's top public and private real-estate entities.

The group joined nearly 40 other businesses and associations in submitting a coalition letter in support of the legislation. Other signatories include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, PPG Industries Inc., and Saint-Gobain Corp..

The bill was also supported by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Alliance to Save Energy, and the National Resources Defense Council.

Similar Measure in Senate

The Senate is expected to soon consider similar legislation introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH).  

Shaheen and Portman

The Senate is expected to consider the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act in the near future. Introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Rob Portman, the bill would promote greater use of energy-efficiency technology in commercial and residential buildings and by manufacturers.

The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, S.2074, has seen growing support since its reintroduction Feb. 27. The new version of the bill, summarized here, incorporates provisions of a similar unsuccessful bill from 2011.

The updated bill also contains provisions that are included in the House bill, as well as 10 bipartisan amendments.

Though backed by Republicans, Democrats, environmental groups, business and industry leaders, both pieces of legislation face uncertain fates in Congress this year.
 

   

Tagged categories: Commercial Buildings; Energy codes; Energy efficiency; Energy Star; Government; Regulations

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