Energy efficiency bill wins bi-partisan support

The strangest of things took place in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday: The House of Representatives passed apparently meaningful energy-related legislation with true bipartisan support.

Titled the “Better Buildings Act of 2014” but sometimes referred to as the “Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2014,” the bill was sponsored by a guy from West Virginia with an R after his name (David McKinley) and a guy from Vermont with a D after his name (Peter Welch). It sailed through the House, Republicans supporting it by a 191-33 count, Dems by 184-3.

image via Shutterstock

So what’s the bill do? Well, one main component that’s getting a lot of attention is called “Tenant Star.” The Natural Resources Defense Council had a hand in the development of this program, which is aimed at commercial building occupants and landloards, through its High Performance Tenant Demonstration Project. The NRDC described Tenant Star this way:

[T]he new voluntary energy program rewards tenants who include high performance energy efficiency measures during design and optimize energy performance during occupancy. Tenant Star would complement the successful Energy Star brand, which recognizes energy efficient whole buildings and addresses often overlooked energy savings by promoting cooperation by commercial building landlords and tenants to save energy in leased spaces.

One word in that description seemed to be key to Republicans – who often wince at government action on energy – embracing this bill: “voluntary.” McKinley called the bill a “voluntary, market-driven approach” approach, and that was the same phrase used by the trade group the Real Estate Roundtable in applauding passage of the bill.

In addition to Tenant Star, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, one of the loudest voices out there for energy-efficiency improvements, cited three other key components in the bill:

  • a provision to encourage benchmarking and public disclosure of energy use in commercial buildings, following a strategy several cities around the country have adopted to encourage more efficiency;
  • The Energy Efficient Government Technology Act for federal agencies to develop strategies to implement energy-saving information technologies from building energy management to telework, and to improve efficiency of federal data centers; and
  • a provision to address concerns that recent efficiency standards for water heaters could interfere with their use in demand response programs run by rural and other utilities.

The ACEEE noted that similar measures are in a Senate bill by Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) – yet another bipartisan effort. “We hope the Senate takes up that bill without delay, so that Americans can start reaping more of the utility bill savings, jobs, cleaner air, and more secure energy that energy efficiency can provide,” ACEEE senior Policy Advisor Lowell Unger said in a statement.

* Pete Danko, EarthTechling