The political landscape in Washington, D.C., currently is marred by partisan posturing on both sides of the aisle, particularly when the discussion turns to climate change. The "Green New Deal," which was unveiled earlier this year by House Democrats, underscores the point that messaging often dominates the legislative process, leaving little room for compromise in bringing together opposing views.
One saving grace that stands out in this encumbered system is a bill authored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), titled the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act. Their legislation is the culmination of years of joint efforts by environmental advocacy groups and business interests. Aimed at increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, the ESIC Act strengthens the building code development process, provides needed training resources for code officials and allows for public input on efficiency targets, well before they are solidified.
The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act strikes a balance between economic considerations and increased energy efficiency.
At the heart of the bill is a section titled simply, "Buildings." Under this section, efficiency targets for voluntary building codes will be considered viable only after the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) considers economic and cost considerations from the perspectives of building owners and tenants as model energy codes are developed—including return on investment analysis. This is intended to ensure that efficiency targets will always be balanced with compliance costs, something that BOMA International has long championed.
Another BOMA-supported provision provides for increased worker training. It expands a DOE program to train engineers in performing energy audits and provides for grants in support of training programs focused specifically on energy efficiency.
Notably, the ESIC Act strikes a balance between economic considerations and increased energy efficiency. In fact, according to a 2014 study conducted by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), by 2030 when fully enacted, the provisions in the bill would create nearly 200,000 jobs and provide consumers $16 billion in energy savings.
THE ROAD AHEAD
History has shown us that the odds of moving a comprehensive energy bill in the year preceding a major election are, to say the least, difficult at best. BOMA is encouraged by the steadfast support of Sens. Portman and Shaheen and their willingness to make this issue a priority.
During a press conference announcing the release of their bill, they acknowledged the bill’s supporters for their efforts over the years, including BOMA International, The Real Estate Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Alliance to Save Energy, the ACEEE and others. With such a wide-ranging set of supporters, it is increasingly possible that the ESIC Act will, once again, get a vote in the Senate.