Two new bills were proposed in the US Senate on Thursday that could lead to major energy efficiency improvements nationwide.
Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced legislation to promote the installation of energy-efficient renovations in commercial and multi-family residential buildings. Dubbed “Building Star,” the program follows in the footsteps of the Homestar program, unveiled last week by President Obama. The senators said by utilizing rebates and low-interest loans, the Building Star program would leverage between two and three dollars in private investment for every federal dollar spent. In addition to rebates to reduce the cost of energy-saving measures such as high-efficiency heating and improved insulation, “Building Star” will also extend low-interest financing options to small businesses and other building owners. Such financing arrangements help building owners with the upfront cost of a building renovation by letting them pay off the cost out of the savings on their energy bill.
The senators said Building Star would create as many as 150,000 jobs in some of the economy’s hardest-hit sectors including construction, manufacturing, and distribution over the next two years. In addition, “Building Star” is expected to save building owners more than $3 billion on their energy bills annually by reducing enough peak electricity demand to avoid the need for thirty-three 300-megawatt power plants. It will also reduce the pollution that contributes to climate change by 21 million metric tons, or the equivalent of nearly 4 million cars’ emissions each year, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Improvements that would be covered by Building Star incentives include: building envelope insulation, windows and doors, HVAC equipment, duct testing and sealing, variable speed motors, interior and exterior lighting, energy management and monitoring systems.
The National Energy Efficiency Enhancement Act:
A bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) aims to boost efficiency requirements for four categories of appliances–furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps and street lights. These appliances are already covered by the Department of Energy’s process for setting energy efficiency standards, but the bill is said to implement accelerated improvements negotiated by energy efficiency advocates and appliance manufacturers.
The National Energy Efficiency Enhancement Act would also change some of the ways the Secretary of Energy administers the program. For example, there would be changes to the criteria the Secretary uses to set efficiency standards in order to include the impact of the new or updated standards on average energy prices, and on the use of new smart grid technology.
The bill builds on Bingaman’s American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 (ACELA), which was approved by the Energy Committee last summer and awaits full Senate action. Additional savings from this new bill are estimated at 260 trillion btus of energy by 2020–the equivalent of about 45 million barrels of crude oil. It is also estimated that the new bill will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 14.7 million metric tons.