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Meg Waltner’s Blog

Bipartisan Energy Savings Act Would Cut US Energy Bills, Create Jobs, and Reduce Pollution

Meg Waltner

Posted May 12, 2011 in Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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Today, Senators Portman and Shaheen introduced the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011, a comprehensive energy efficiency bill that if enacted will reduce the nation’s energy bills, while creating jobs and reducing dangerous pollution.  The bill shows that energy efficiency is a common sense solution that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on and we commend Senators Portman and Shaheen for their hard work on the bill.

Energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest and quickest resource we have to meet our energy needs. However persistent barriers to implementation leave lots of energy efficiency opportunities on the table. The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act would harness some of these opportunities with provisions to make our nation’s buildings, appliances, industries, and Federal government use energy more efficiently. The bipartisan bill includes many provisions modeled off of bills from the previous Congress which already enjoy wide bipartisan support and we urge the Senate to move quickly to pass the bill.

Buildings and the appliances and equipment inside them represent one of the biggest opportunities for energy efficiency improvements. They account for approximately 40 percent of energy use in the US, a large percentage of which is wasted through inefficient use. Energy efficiency in buildings is underutilized due to a variety of barriers – split incentives (the person who chooses the efficiency level isn’t the person who pays the energy bills), lack of financing, and lack of information are all examples. The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act addresses some of these barriers with provisions on building energy codes, efficiency finance and energy use information. The building energy codes provision would drive continued efficiency improvements in the national model energy codes while offering incentive funding to states which adopt and comply with the codes. The Rural Energy Savings Program, commonly known as Rural STAR, would provide loans to rural electric cooperatives to make improvements in home energy efficiency.

The Energy Savings Act includes consensus appliance efficiency standards which were also recently reported out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee as a standalone bill. The appliance standards provision would set new energy efficiency standards for residential heating and cooling products, home appliances, and other miscellaneous products. If enacted, this provision would save a net $43 billion for consumers through 2030 and enough energy annually to meet the needs of 4.6 million typical American households.

There are also significant opportunities for energy efficiency in the manufacturing sector. To harness these opportunities, the Energy Savings Act establishes a competitive grant program which would fund state revolving loan programs to finance investments in efficient manufacturing. It also includes the Supply Star provisions which would establish a DOE program to help companies improve their supply chain efficiency.

Finally, the bill contains provisions to ensure that the Federal government is using energy efficiently. It would require retrofits of federal buildings to meet stringent building energy codes as is already required for new buildings. It would also require improvements in Federal energy management practices.

Overall, the bill makes great strides forward for energy efficiency. We commend Senators Shaheen and Portman for their hard work on the bill and urge the Senate to quickly pass the bill.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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