Article Date: 02/07/2014

The Movement to Improve Energy Efficiency in Buildings Gains Steam in Congress

By Steve Rizer


Since the beginning of the year, there has been a flurry of congressional activity to promote energy efficiency in buildings across America, with a House committee’s passage of the Better Buildings bill (H.R. 2126) last week topping the list of highlights for advocates. Complementing this action are at least 11 bills addressing building energy efficiency that have been introduced since ConstructionPro Week’s (CPW) last profile of green building legislation in late December (CPW, Dec. 27, 2013, “Group Laments the Exclusion of Building Energy-Efficiency Provisions from the New Senate Tax Plan, But It Has Not Given Up Hope; ConstructionPro Week Profiles 26 Congressional Bills”).


H.R. 2126, which the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed Jan. 28, would amend the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to require the U.S. Department of Energy to study the feasibility of “significantly improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings through the design and construction of separate spaces with high-performance energy-efficiency measures.” DOE additionally would study the feasibility of encouraging owners and tenants to implement such measures in separate spaces.


Also under H.R. 2126, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would develop a voluntary Tenant Star program within the Energy Star program to recognize tenants in commercial buildings that voluntarily achieve high levels of energy efficiency in separate spaces. The U.S. Energy Information Administration would collect data on categories of building occupancy that consume significant quantities of energy and on other aspects of the property, building operation, or building occupancy determined to be relevant for lowering energy consumption. The bill would prohibit the impact on climate change from being a factor in determining energy efficiency involving commercial building tenants.


When asked to predict what the legislation’s ultimate fate will be, Elizabeth Tate, the Alliance to Save Energy’s (ASE) director of government relations, told CPW, “It seems likely that this bill would come to the House floor, along with several other energy-efficiency measures, including the [Rep. Anna] Eshoo (D-Calif.)-[Rep. Mike] Rogers (R-Mich.) data center bill [H.R. 540], that are pending in committee. This is a bipartisan, non-controversial, potentially very impactful piece of legislation that should be passed this year.”


H.R. 2126 was the first energy-efficiency bill that the committee considered in the 113th Congress, which began in January of last year. It also represented the full committee’s first action of 2014.



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