It could be a very good sign for energy efficiency and green tech advocates that so early in a new U.S. Congress, the House of Representatives has already held a hearing on energy efficiency technologies.
The House Energy and Power Subcommittee of the Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing Tuesday on “American Energy Security and Innovation: An Assessment of Private-Sector Successes and Opportunities in Energy Efficient Technologies,” which discussed possible legislation, financing programs and ways to encourage energy efficiency in buildings and homes.
Strong bipartisan support for energy efficiency initiatives appears apparent, though it also appears that lines are being drawn by Republicans on limiting federal energy-efficiency regulations and other policies.
Again and again during the hearing. Democrats and Republicans alike professed how energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to reduce energy use and save home and business owners money. Also mentioned repeatedly was increasing “energy productivity,” or the amount of economic output possible at a given level of energy supply, which results from greater efficiency.
A recent Energy 2030 plan, put forth by Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy and spearheaded by the non-profit Alliance to Save Energy, proposes doubling energy productivity by 2030. Many believe efficiency measures and increased energy productivity will help grow the economy, spurring innovation and creating jobs. In his recent State of The Union address, President Barack Obama took a page from the plan by proposing the country cut energy waste in buildings and homes in half by 2030.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) also testified. Murkowski’s 20/20 plan proposes help with financing energy efficiency retrofits and may serve as template for how she would like to see her Congressional colleague address energy.
As the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Energy and its efficiency-related programs, Murkowski could be the lynchpin for getting energy-efficiency legislation through Congress.
Murkowski says she supports consideration of Shaheen’s revised energy efficiency bill with Rob Portman (R-Ohio), which will cover building energy efficiency. Some of the Shaheen-Portman proposals from last year’s bill were just passed as part of the American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act.
Shaheen says a revised bill will include non-mandatory incentives and support for residential and commercial buildings to cut energy use, assistance for the manufacturing sector to implement energy efficient production technologies, and require the federal government to adopt more efficient building standards and smart metering technology. She said a study of last year’s version of the bill, which did not pass, would have saved consumers $4 billion by 2020 and help businesses add 80,000 jobs to the economy. “Energy saving techniques and technologies lower costs and free up capital that allows businesses to expand and our economy to grow,” she says.
The Shaheen-Portman bill is likely the frontrunner in energy-efficiency legislation. According to Rob Mosher, Government Relations Director for the Alliance to Save Energy, we could see the Shaheen-Portman bill introduced by late March.
Mosher says he is encouraged by the fact that the Shaheen-Portman bill has garnered so much attention. “It shows there’s a broad level of support.”
Mosher is also encouraged that Congress is looking at energy efficiency as an economic driver. “The economy can always perform better with energy efficiency measures.” He says because of the focus of many state and local governments is to take austerity measures, saving money becomes even more important.