A National Energy Efficiency Policy for Today and the Future

All buildings would consume no more energy than they create through a combination of energy efficiencies and new technologies by the year 2030 if a new national energy strategy, the bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011 (S. 1000 - ESIC) is passed by Congress. In June the bipartisan bill, introduced by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Republican Robert Portman (Ohio) was passed with strong support by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. It has broad support from industry, which wants more efficiencies in order to gain a technological advantage. The bill’s future in the House of Representatives may be enhanced by Portman's new role as a member of the deficit reduction super committee.
Section 101 of the bill, "Greater Efficiency in Building Codes" requires the Secretary of Energy to set increasing targets by year creating a "path to achieving zero-net-energy" by the year 2030. These incremental code updates are built from the baselines of the 2009 IECC for residential buildings and ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2010 for commercial buildings. A 2012 IECC update will meet the initial 50% reduction target of what has become known as the 2030 Challenge. The Challenge is included in various local, state and federal legislation, but its inclusion in the ESIC would make it part of a comprehensive national energy efficiency strategy.
The bill would increase private sector investment in building efficiency improvements by expanding federal loan guarantee programs. It would help finance energy efficiency upgrades by manufacturers through a revolving loan program. It would set standards for residential appliances, residential cooling and heating systems and standards for outdoor lighting. It would strengthen national model building energy codes for new home construction. The federal government, which consumes the most energy of any organization in the country, would be required to improve energy saving practices for computers, establish a smart metering program and improve national model building codes.
Energy efficiency is the best means for achieving national energy independence according to supporters of the bill. Shaheen said "Action on our energy policy can't wait for another election, or for a different Senate, and it doesn't have to." She says the national energy strategy outlined in the bill "can make our economy more competitive, start addressing our nation's energy challenges and create private sector jobs." She explained that the bill is aimed to appeal to both parties by remaining tax neutral and focusing on new energy savings.
The bill has attracted the attention of interested parties from all points in the political and economic spectrum. Over fifty  groups registered to lobby on the bill, including the the Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the National Ground Water Association, the US Green Building Council, Xcel Energy, the Edison Electric Institute, Honeywell, Ingersoll-Rand, Intel, Johnson Controls, the Business Roundtable, the Consumers Union, Dow Chemical, BASF, Berkshire Hathaway, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Real Estate Roundtable, the Solar Energy Industries Association and the US Chamber of Commerce.
Construction industry concerns during the committee hearings about proposed energy efficiency improvements to building codes led to the original bill being modified to make the stronger codes voluntary, with new funding incentives to states that adopt the stronger building code standards. But over 100 trade association, advocacy groups and businesses have endorsed the bill. Shaheen and Portman were praised by the Bipartisan Policy Center for "identifying obstacles to the deployment of energy efficiency measures and for developing a number of practical solutions."
The 194 page bill is a comprehensive attempt to introduce efficiency to all aspects of energy use. Title I calls for improvements to model building codes and standards. Title II creates a rural energy savings loan fund for public power districts and electric cooperatives to use for themselves or to loan to their customers at a rate of no more than 3%. Title III creates a revolving loan program with the states to fund industrial energy efficiency projects. Title IV concerns the federal government's energy use with programs to improve federal energy efficiency.
Energy Efficiency is the future. It will make a major contribution to reorienting our energy consumption patterns, reduce our need for foreign energy sources, and reduce our energy costs. The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011 would be a major stride in that direction. Look for it to be introduced in the House this fall. In its spirit of bipartisanship it could become law. If you believe in energy efficiency as a way out of our energy crisis let your legislator know you are looking forward to the passage of a House companion bill to S. 1000. It will lead to the reduction of power bills and establish a direction for our now aimless and drifting energy policy.
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I am a Seattle-based writer. Energy efficiency and the achievement of human potential are my goals. I have worked as a legislative aide and a database manager, and recently started building a money- and energy-saving household goods online store featuring sensible and affordable home environment solutions including ENERGY STAR qualified products. Contact: Twitter: @Greenbespoke @SaveWattsatHome