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Bipartisan Building Energy Law Signed

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

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WASHINGTON, DC—A new U.S. law will hold commercial tenants to new energy usage standards and require more energy benchmarking for federally leased buildings.

The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015, introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), passed the Senate in March and the House in April. President Obama signed the bill into law Thursday (April 30).

'Small but Significant’

While the law is not the full piece of energy-efficiency legislation that Shaheen and Portman have been working to get passed for years, it is a step in the right direction, according to Shaheen.

President Barack Obama
Official White House Photo / Pete Souza

President Obama signed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 into law Thursday (April 30). The bill's sponsor says it marks a victory over legislative gridlock in Washington.

“[T]his legislation is a small but significant victory over legislative gridlock,” she said in a statement.

“It’s always tough to convince Washington to not play politics with a good idea.”

The new law features three “simple but effective” provisions that the Congressional Budget Office have scored as budget neutral, according to Shaheen.

3 Key Measures

One key provision will create a new voluntary certification program, Tenant Star. The plan is modeled after the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program, which certifies commercial buildings as highly energy efficient.

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

Energy Star
EPA

A new "Tenant Star" certification program will be modeled after EPA's Energy Star program.

The measure provides incentives for commercial building owners and tenants to work together so tenants can be more efficient in their energy use and get credit for that, according to the senator.

The second provision provides an exemption for certain grid-enabled electric resistance water heaters from pending Department of Energy regulation.

Finally, the law requires federally leased buildings without Energy Star labels to benchmark and disclose their energy usage data, where practical.

Comprehensive Energy Bill

With the smaller bill passed, Shaheen has renewed hope that her larger measure will make its way to the President’s desk.

In March, Shaheen and Portman reintroduced their comprehensive Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act.

Lawmakers are still discussing the merits of that proposal, which has failed to pass since 2011, despite widespread support from Democrats, Republicans and industry leaders.

‘Long Overdue’

“A vote to pass our legislation is long overdue, and I hope the overwhelming support behind this bill will help carry it through the Senate,” Shaheen said in a statement.

YouTube

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) testifes before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the merits of her reintroduced Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act.

Among other provisions, the broader bill calls for:

  • Stronger residential and commercial building codes;
  • Greater use of energy-efficiency technologies in commercial and residential buildings and by manufacturers;
  • Partnering the Energy Department with manufacturers, to research and commercialize new technologies; and
  • Supporting construction worker training programs for careers in efficient building design and operation.

Shaheen testified Thursday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee regarding that bill.

Architects Applaud, Oppose

U.S. architects have applauded the passage of the Shaheen-Portman bill.

“As architects, we heartily support this bipartisan measure that promotes energy efficiency in industrial, commercial and residential applications,” said AIA President Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA.

“This piece of legislation demonstrates that good energy efficiency policy can pass without being hampered by ulterior political motives.”

However, the architects are not so keen on a provision of the larger bill, which seeks to repeal Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act.

Architect
© iStock.com / gpointstudio

Designers and construction professionals have voiced opposition to a provision in the larger Shaheen-Portman legislation.

Section 433 sets goals for reducing fossil fuel use in federal buildings by 2030.

“[E]fforts to gut energy laws in the name of energy efficiency just do not make any sense,” Richter said.

A Letter to Congress

The AIA and nearly 500 businesses from across the country recently urged Congress to reject the provision in a letter.

The letter states that design and construction companies across the country are already designing buildings that meet, and in some cases exceed, the current targets in Section 433.

“In fact, Section 433 has enabled design firms to develop new design strategies that they are now using to help private-sector clients reduce their energy loads,” the letter states.

The institute has also complied a “Myth vs. Fact” document on the provision.

   

Tagged categories: Architects; Certifications and standards; Commercial Buildings; Energy codes; Energy efficiency; Energy Star; Government; Green building; Laws and litigation; Regulations

Comment from Charles Brown, (5/7/2015, 11:16 PM)

The 'significance' of Tenant Star sounds insignificant when compared to the significant short sighted effort to repeal Section 433.


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