Cleantech Market Intelligence
Finally, the U.S. Considers a National Energy Bill
A new national energy bill in the United States appears to be making its way to the Senate floor and could be debated by lawmakers in the next few weeks. Known as the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, the bill was introduced by Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and passed by the Senate Natural Resources Committee back in May. It has received considerable bipartisan support and has been endorsed by a coalition of more than 200 businesses, including major industrial energy users such as Alcoa, General Electric, and International Paper.
The bill contains a set of prescriptive and incentive measures aimed at the commercial, residential, and industrial sectors. It tightens commercial and residential building codes, which have been on a consistent trend toward increased stringency over the last few years. It also directs the U.S. Department of Energy to reauthorize its industrial research and assessment centers (IAC), which assist small- and medium-sized manufacturers in uncovering energy efficiency opportunities.
Passing the Bar
The plan comes on the heels of the climate plan set out by President Obama in June, which established new funding programs to develop clean energy technology and also bolstered a number of existing programs, such as the Better Buildings Initiative, which commits the federal government to $2 billion of taxpayer fund-free energy performance contracts. Although there is no direct relationship between the two plans, the Shaheen-Portman bill would lower the bar for many of the federal government’s internal energy efficiency goals by allowing the federal government easier access to funds for energy-efficiency measures in buildings and data centers.
The bipartisan support that the bill has received in its formative phases is a testament to the universal appeal of energy efficiency measures, which appeal to conservatives concerned with reducing costs as much as they do to environmentalists. Many efficiency measures offer paybacks of less than four years. As Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industry Association, put it, “Improved energy efficiency should be a national priority—not a political football.”
A long road lies ahead before the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act becomes law. But for the United States, which has been a laggard on national legislation to support clean energy, as the Pew Charitable Trusts concluded in a 2012 report, it represents a significant step toward the type of comprehensive strategy the United States needs to reduce carbon emissions in a cost-effective, and non-partisan, way.