Article Date: 02/15/2013

Are Energy-Efficiency Advocates Asking for Too Much?

By Steve Rizer


What are the realistic chances that the new Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy (ACNEEP) plan for doubling U.S. energy productivity by 2030 will be implemented? Despite recent successes in getting energy-efficiency policies passed into law, advocates may find it difficult -- if not impossible -- to get the blue-ribbon commission’s ambitious blueprint for change fully carried out, given the sheer number of steps that would need to be taken by so many diverse groups.


The highly publicized “Energy 2030” plan, released earlier this month, contains at least 45 specific recommendations for improving energy efficiency across the country and relies upon Congress; the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); the White House Office of Management and Budget; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); International Code Council (ICC); state and local governments; public utility commissions; and others to do their part in implementing it. Will all of the players cooperate?

Here are five of the recommendations that ACNEEP made:

  • States and local governments should work with utilities, the private sector, and the federal government to establish effective energy-efficiency financing mechanisms for residential and commercial buildings (including loans, leases, energy services agreements, and power purchase agreements). Repayment on utility bills or property tax bills can reduce risk by encouraging timely payment and by allowing an obligation to stay with the building when it is sold. (Of course administrative costs and any impacts on payment of the bills would need to be addressed.) Such financing mechanisms may include the following: on-bill repayment programs administered by utilities but with capital provided by third parties, including banks and other investors; on-bill finance programs with capital provided by utilities from ratepayer or shareholder funds; and property assessed clean energy financing with repayment on property tax bills. The capital is usually obtained by local or state governments issuing bonds for residential buildings and by third parties working directly with the building owner for commercial buildings.
  • Congress should increase support for energy-efficiency demonstration, deployment, and technical assistance at DOE, EPA, and other agencies (from Building America to Industrial Assessment Centers to Energy Star to weatherization of low-income homes). DOE should maintain a balanced portfolio of research and deployment programs.
  • HUD should quickly update efficiency requirements for new homes with federally subsidized loans and for public housing, and DOE should quickly update the requirements for federal buildings, based on the most recent model codes.
  • DOE and EPA should engage a stakeholder coalition to develop model building energy ratings, benchmarks, and disclosure methods for commercial buildings and for residential buildings that are based on the best existing systems and practices, user friendly, adjusted to climate regions, and universally available. The coalition should consider inclusion of location efficiency information. DOE should ratify the ratings/benchmarks/disclosure developed by the stakeholders as the national models and ensure that needed comparative data are available and up-to-date.
  • ICC and ASHRAE, with DOE support, should build on recent 30 percent energy savings and steadily increase the energy efficiency of their model building energy codes and standards. The updates should continue to be cost effective, stakeholder driven, and fuel and technology neutral.

Upon release of the report, Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan expressed optimism about the proposal’s fate. “I am confident that the commission’s recommendations will resonate and be implemented broadly because of the wide range of disciplines, expertise, backgrounds and political views of the commission and our Board of Directors. They stressed the need for government -- at all levels -- to engage, collaborate, and partner with the private sector and consumers in order to achieve the goal of Energy 2030. We believe we are putting forward this agenda at exactly the right time. There is new receptivity everywhere I look to energy efficiency as an economic boost that can earn bipartisan support. I see it in public interest by House Energy and Power Subcommittee [Chairperson] Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), in Senate Energy Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) new energy plan, and, of course, in Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) work to introduce a new version of their efficiency bill. And I see it in new programs and ideas in states and communities around the country.”


Callahan added that her organization “will be conducting a massive advocacy effort at the federal and grass-roots levels to ensure that these policy recommendations are embraced and implemented in communities and states nationwide.”


Release of the plan came a few weeks after energy-efficiency advocates scored a major victory via passage of the American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections bill (H.R. 6582) into law (ConstructionPro Week, Dec. 21, 2012, “Energy-Efficiency Advocates Praise Passage of Legislation but Want Additional Action”).



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