US-DOE Lauds CRE’s Efficiency Gains and Carbon Reductions

Roundtable members are among the commercial real estate partners recognized in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Buildings Initiative 2023 progress report released on Monday. This voluntary public-private partnership with more than 900 participating organizations has collectively saved $18.5 billion through energy efficiency improvements, and cut carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 190 million metric tons, since its launch in 2011. (DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative Report and PoliticoPro, Oct. 23)

DOE’s CRE Partners

  • This week’s Progress Report from DOE shows that more than 165 partners from various industry sectors who participate in its separate Better Climate Challenge have committed to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (scope 1 and 2) by at least 50% over 10 years without the use of offsets. The report’s outstanding GHG Emissions Reduction Goal Achievers include companies led by RER members.
  • The Real Estate Roundtable and several of its partner real estate organizations—including the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), Building Owners & Managers Association International (BOMA), Pension Real Estate Association (PREA), and Urban Land Institute (ULI)—are noted in the report as Industry Organization Partners.
  • U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said, “To meet President Biden’s ambitious climate goals, the public and private sector need practical pathways to reduce emissions while cutting costs—and that’s exactly what they get from DOE’s Better Building Initiative.” (DOE news release and the report’s Commercial Real Estate Sector Spotlight)

Tools and Best Practices

  • DOE’s partners represent almost every sector of the American economy: nearly 30 of the country’s Fortune 100 companies, nearly 20 of the top 50 U.S. employers, 14% of the U.S. manufacturing energy footprint, and 13% of total commercial building space, as well as more than 90 state and local governments.
  • The DOE report also provides case studies for collaborations across sectors to access insights, strategies, and through the agency’s “Decarbonization Resource Hub.”

DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative website provides extensive resources on the agency’s wide-ranging effort to partner with leaders in the public and private sectors to make the nation’s commercial buildings, industrial plants, and homes more energy-efficient by accelerating investment and sharing successful best practices.

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CRE Coalition Asks EPA to Help Standardize Conflicting State, Local Building Emissions Laws

The Real Estate Roundtable and industry partners encouraged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Sept. 14 to enhance its set of effective, standardized, and voluntary federal tools that can assist real estate companies meet climate targets imposed by city and state laws. (Real estate coalition letter, Sept. 14)

EPA Standards to Quantify Emissions

  • The coalition endorsed EPA’s planned improvements to its free, online Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool, announced in an ENERGY STAR July 2023 policy brief. Nearly 25% of U.S. CRE space measures energy and water use, waste disposal, and GHG emissions using Portfolio Manager.  
  • Without EPA’s voluntary resources to support uniform emissions measurement, compliance with local mandates is “exceedingly difficult, impracticable, and in some cases, impossible,” the letter states.
  • “We value greatly our longstanding collaboration with the US-EPA’s ENERGY STAR program.  It is the gold standard of resources which help our industry report on energy efficiency and the financial impacts from the increase of renewable energy supplies,” said Roundtable Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee Chair, Tony Malkin (Chairman, President, and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust), below.
SPAC Chair Tony Malkin
  • Malkin added, “Non-binding federal guidelines from the EPA’s strong and best-in-class analytical frameworks are the North Star through which local governments can inform their law-making, and this helps to bring some sense and order to the otherwise conflicting patchwork of climate laws and frameworks developed by states, cities, and NGOs. The future is hard facts and data, and our industry is fortunate to have a constructive and productive relationship with the EPA that focuses on points on the board, the how to address the what.”  
  • The American Hotel & Lodging Association; Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International; CRE Finance Council; ICSC; Mortgage Bankers Association; NAIOP, Commercial Real Estate Development Association; and Nareit® joined The Roundtable on the coalition letter.

Anticipated SEC Climate RulesSecurities and Exchange Commission (SEC) seal

  • The Roundtable’s call for uniform methods to calculate and report emissions anticipates overdue rules this fall from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC’s rules are expected to compel registered companies to disclose in investor filings material financial impacts related to climate change. (See Roundtable Weekly, June 10, 2022 and RER comments).
  • Gensler is also scheduled to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Sept. 19.

The Biden administration’s emphasis on climate policy will continue this fall, when it is expected to propose a uniform federal definition on the long-term concept of “zero emissions buildings.” The Roundtable’s SPAC will convene a working group to analyze the definition upon its release for public comments.

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Roundtable “Fact Sheet” Summarizes Inflation Reduction Act’s “Clean Energy” Tax Incentives Important to Real Estate

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that passed Congress today (see story above) – “includes the largest expenditures ever made by the federal government to slow global warming.” (New York Times, Aug. 7) The bill “would spend nearly $370 billion on a raft of tax credits to help stimulate adoption of clean energy technologies.” (POLITICO, July 28)

Key CRE Credits and Deductions (RER Fact Sheet

A number of the IRA’s revisions to the federal tax code can help the U.S. real estate sector reduce GHG emissions. The Real Estate Roundtable has prepared a fact sheet summarizing key IRA incentives, including:

  • A revised tax deduction at Section 179D, to encourage existing commercial building “retrofit” projects that cut energy consumption by at least 25%;
  • A revised tax credit at Section 45L, to encourage new energy efficient multifamily construction;
  • An expanded tax credit at Section 48,  to support investments in solar, combined heat and power, microturbines, energy storage, dynamic glass, grid interconnection, fuel cells, geothermal heat pumps, and other clean energy technologies;
  • A new code section to allow businesses that cannot typically benefit from tax incentives because of income limitations (such as REITs) to transfer certain credits to unrelated third parties.

The Senate Finance Committee has provided a summary of all incentives in the IRA’s “Energy Security” Subtitle D. 

Roundtable Advocacy

Capitol building sun and green

  • The Roundtable has long advocated for code changes that can make clean energy incentives more usable for building owners, managers, designers, and financiers. (See Roundtable Weekly, Nov. 19 and May 28, 2021).
  • The IRA includes a number of The Roundtable’s recommended changes. As our analysis of Subtitle D continues, RER’s fact sheet will be updated and revised.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is expected to issue multiple regulations and guidance documents in the coming months that implement the new law. The Roundtable will provide comments as new rules are proposed to help accelerate the CRE industry’s investments in tackling the climate crisis.

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EPA Highlights Federal Resources to Help Standardize State, Local GHG Laws on Buildings

EPA's Building Performance Policy Brief - image

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a policy brief on Tuesday that provides a “formal recommendation” on metrics that states and cities should consider as they may develop GHG-related mandates on commercial and multifamily buildings. 

Trends in Building Performance Standards (“BPS”) 

  • A national BPS law does not exist (and is not on Congress’s horizon) for emissions limits or efficiency requirements on private sector buildings.
  • Nor do U.S. agencies have any current ability to create a general federal building energy code or enact rules that establish GHG mandates on real estate assets, as made evident by yesterday’s SCOTUS decision in West Virginia v. EPA. (SCOTUSblog, June 30)
  • However, a number of states and cities have developed or are considering their own climate-related building regulations according to the National BPS Coalition launched by the Biden Administration.
  • Local BPS laws can require CRE owners to pay for energy efficiency retrofits and building electrification projects—or else pay fines and penalties.
  • The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is creating a BPS for buildings owned by the federal government. Development of the “federal BPS” is reportedly delayed because of “data shortfalls.” (Bloomberg Law, June 29)

RER Seeks Voluntary Federal Guidelines   

SPAC at Roundtable Annual Meeting

  • The Real Estate Roundtable has repeatedly expressed to policymakers—including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)—that workable, federal-level, voluntary guidelines are needed to help standardize the “hodge-podge” of divergent local laws that can vary in their regulations on buildings.
  • The Roundtable’s June 10 comment letter to the SEC urged the creation of a “safe harbor” for proposed emissions disclosures that are based on the best available GHG calculation tools, standards and data offered by federal agencies. (Roundtable Weekly, June 10).
  • EPA branch chiefs heard from The Roundtable about the need for federal guidance to help unify local BPS laws at the June 17 meeting of the Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee, above. (Roundtable Weekly, June 17) SPAC is chaired by Tony Malkin (Chairman, President, and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust) and vice-chaired by Ben Myers (VP, Sustainability, BXP). 

EPA’s Recommended BPS Metrics  

EPA's BPS metrics publication

  • SPAC members participated in a number of EPA-sponsored “workshops” that led to the recommended federal BPS metrics.
  • EPA’s recommended metrics are intended to “develop consistent policies that reflect the business realities faced by building owners.” (EPA’s Policy Brief and Recommended Metrics publication, above)
  • Specifically, EPA recommends that any locality considering a BPS should focus on measures within a building owner’s ability to control—such as “on-site” reduction of energy usage or “direct” GHG emissions.
  • EPA also recommends that any energy-usage intensity requirement should not be “one size fits all.” Rather, BPS rules should be “normalized” to reflect variables such as a building’s type, hours of operation, and weather conditions.
  • EPA’s recommendations are preferable to other proposals that could make CRE owners responsible for how “clean” the electric grid should become—an issue beyond owners’ control. (Roundtable Weekly, April 9, 2021). 

A number of localities are contemplating laws to ban natural gas and other fossil fuels within their borders. EPA’s encourages any such jurisdiction to consider long-term, published, and incremental “phase-out” schedules so building owners can “plan for costly and difficult equipment replacements.”  

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Senate Committee Advances $100 Billion+ Energy Bill With Provisions Affecting Commercial Real Estate

Senate Energy Committee

The Senate Energy Committee this week passed a bill to authorize more than $100 billion in spending on U.S. energy infrastructure with provisions affecting commercial real estate. The bill may be folded into a larger bipartisan infrastructure package emerging on Capitol Hill. (CQ and Reuters, July 14) 

A Bipartisan Influence 

  • The Energy Infrastructure Act, introduced by Committee Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV), below, drew the support of all 10 Democrats and three Republicans on the panel. Manchin noted that the committee’s vote “is another critical step toward finalizing our bipartisan infrastructure package, and an important reminder that we can find sensible solutions to difficult problems when we put partisanship aside and work together.” (Manchin news release and committee meeting video, July 14) 

CRE Impact 

Sen.  Joe Manchin (D-WV)

  • The bill includes provisions that would create an avenue for Congressional oversight to improve the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) – the key data set collected by the federal government on the basic characteristics of U.S. commercial buildings and how much energy they consume. 
    • Improving the quality and integrity of CBECS data has long been a priority of The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) chaired by Tony Malkin (Chairman, President, and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust) , and Vice-Chaired by Dan Egan (Vornado Realty Trust) and Ben Myers (Boston Properties). 
    • “Reliable data from the federal government is crucial to help building owners do their part to address climate change,” said Roundtable President and CEO, Jeffrey DeBoer. “We applaud Chairman Manchin’s efforts through the Energy Infrastructure Act to modernize CBECS data so it reflects the substantial resources our members commit to optimize energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment.” 
  • CBECS is managed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). It provides the foundational data set used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to certify 1-100 ENERGY STAR scores that “label” top performing buildings for lower energy use and greenhouse gas emissions compared to typical buildings. 
    • According to EPA, 5.6 billion square feet of floor space are ENERGY STAR rated, and these certified assets command a premium up to 16% for sales prices and rental rates. 
  • Despite the critical importance of EIA’s CBECS data to EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, there is currently no requirement for the agencies to coordinate on how they use or verify data. Manchin’s bill would change this. 
    • It would require the agencies to submit to Congress an “information sharing agreement” that explains how EPA’s own vaster and more current set of building data (collected through its Portfolio Manager “energy benchmarking” tool) can be used to supplement CBECS data. 
  • Manchin’s bill would also require EIA to report to Congress on how it might publish CBECS data every three years – on a faster track than EIA’s current six-to-seven year survey cycle, which results in government and private sector reliance on outdated building information in rapidly evolving energy markets. 
    • The bill would also require the agencies to “cross-check” buildings’ energy consumption in different data sets to improve statistical reliability, and take steps to ensure that larger buildings (greater than 250,000 square feet) are fully represented in the federal CBECS set.   

Investments in the Electric Grid, Code Implementation 

Electric towers

  • Other provisions in the Energy Infrastructure Act would:
    • Provide federal grants to States and other entities to harden the electric grid and improve its resiliency to natural and cyber threats;
    • Provide States with money to establish revolving loan funds for building audits and retrofit projects;
    • Direct the Energy Department and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to develop model guidance for combined heat and power (CHP) systems to provide “backup” or “standby” power to the electric grid;  
    • Create an Energy Department grant program for code agencies, building associations, and other entities to improve implementation and compliance with building energy codes; and
    • Trigger Davis-Bacon “prevailing wage” requirements for any projects or programs receiving federal dollars.  

 Language from the Senate Energy Committee’s bill might ultimately be incorporated into a larger infrastructure package expected to encompass transportation, electric vehicles, broadband, water, and sewer systems. [See Infrastructure story above]   

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Biden Administration Officials Hold Summit with CRE Leaders to “Decarbonize” Buildings

Better Buildings webcast with Sara Neff speaking

The White House convened a roundtable discussion on Monday with CRE industry leaders and other stakeholders to discuss opportunities and obstacles to “decarbonize” U.S. buildings and create jobs on energy efficient construction and retrofit projects. (“Accelerating Building Decarbonization,” Department of Energy / YouTube video

Government and Industry Dialogue 

  • The event aimed to catalyze cooperation across government, real estate, manufacturing, and union participants as part of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which has a goal to build and retrofit two million homes and commercial buildings.
  • According to a White House Fact Sheet, its recommended federal investments in building energy efficiency and electrification “will create new domestic manufacturing opportunities for electric heating and cooling technology, invest in research and development to spur smart building advances, and forge collaborations that will enable buildings to be powered by clean electricity.”
  • White House National Climate Policy Advisor Gina McCarthy led the “Better Buildings Summit,” which also included Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jennifer Granholm; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan; General Services Administration (GSA) Acting Administrator Katy Kale; and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory. (YouTube video
  • Henry Chamberlain, president and COO of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International, participated in the event. The White House also invited five members of The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) to participate:   
    • Darien Crimmin, WinnDevelopment
    • Dan Egan, Vornado Realty Trust (SPAC vice-chair)
    • Ben Myers, Boston Properties, Inc.
    • Sara Neff, Kilroy Realty Corp.
    • Dana Schneider, Empire State Realty Trust, Inc.

New Programs 

Better Buildings logo

  • The webinar revealed that GSA will act as a proving ground to adopt carbon neutral strategies in the federal building stock – and develop “performance standards” for federal buildings with metrics and targets to reach their goals for reducing emissions.
  • The White House’s Brenda Mallory announced during the event that a series of “stakeholder roundtables” will be held by the Administration to gain perspectives from industry experts on how to modernize buildings.
  • EPA Administrator Regan also announced new programs affecting CRE, along with several other initiatives impacting the residential sector, including:

Zero-Carbon Building Recognition

EPA is developing criteria for a new zero-carbon commercial building recognition award. This new program aims to encourage early adoption of efficiency, electrification, green power and renewable thermal certificates in buildings, and to complement building performance standards and ENERGY STAR certification for top performing energy efficient buildings. 

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator Tool for Commercial Buildings

EPA will launch a new tool linked to the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool used by over 25% of the commercial building space in the country. The new calculator will support scenario-building and estimating the impacts of electrification and renewable energy at the building and portfolio level by enabling the use of customized emissions factors to estimate future emissions associated with building energy use. 

  • Separately, DOE Secretary Granholm testified yesterday before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy on her department’s $46.2 billion 2022 FY budget request. Granholm addressed the Administration’s infrastructure plan and urged Congress to advance clean energy technologies. (Granholm testimony, May 19)
  • President Biden yesterday issued an Executive Order directing his Administration to create a strategy on quantifying climate change risks for both public and private financial assets. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who leads the multi-agency Financial Stability Oversight Council, will oversee development of the federal report on information sharing requirements of the climate-related financial risk data. (White House Fact Sheet, May 20) 

The Roundtable’s SPAC will focus on the impact of the Biden Administration’s and congressional efforts to reduce carbon emissions in buildings during its June 16 meeting, held in conjunction with the organization’s Annual Meeting (remote).

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House Democrats Introduce Sweeping Climate Legislation Including Building Codes, Benchmarking and SEC Reporting Provisions

Capitol with evening sky
House Democrats on March 2 introduced a sprawling bill aimed at achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with provisions regarding building construction, operations, and ESG reporting. (Politico, March 3 and CQ News, Reuters, March 2)

  • The 981-page Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act– 981-page measure is sponsored by House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ); Climate Change Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush (D-IL), (BGov, March 3)
  • The House Committee noted provisions that would impact commercial and residential real estate. “The CLEAN Future Act improves the efficiency of new and existing buildings, as well as the equipment and appliances that operate within them. It establishes national energy savings targets for continued improvement of model building energy codes, leading to a requirement of zero-energy-ready buildings by 2030.” (Energy & Commerce Committee news release, March 2)
  • The CLEAN Future Act also proposes mandatory federal-level energy and water “benchmarking” requirements for buildings over 50,000 square feet. These provisions mimic dozens of existing state and local requirements that currently require building owners to track their assets’ energy and water usage and disclose this information to the public.
  • CLEAN Future Act reference:
  • The bill also directs the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require public companies to disclose in annual reports information about their “direct” and “indirect” GHG emissions, and corporate governance procedures to identify and manage climate-related risks. (Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, March 3)
  • Acting SEC Chair Allison Herren Lee recently issued a Climate Change Statement explaining, “[n]ow more than ever, investors are considering climate-related issues when making their investment decisions” and that it is the SEC’s “responsibility to ensure that they have access to material information when planning for their financial future.” (SEC statement, Feb. 24  and Gibson Dunn, March 1) 

While the measure will likely face substantial challenges to attract 60 votes in the evenly divided Senate, The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) is conducting a detailed analysis of the CLEAN Future Act’s impacts on the real estate sector. 

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House Democrats Propose Climate Framework With Measures to Reduce Buildings’ Carbon Footprint

Solving The Climate Crisis - House Democrats' Proposal

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on June 30 released its blueprint for “Solving the Climate Crisis.”  The plan proposes a menu of mandates and incentives for multiple industry sectors – including commercial and residential real estate – with a goal to achieve a 100% “net zero” emissions U.S. economy by 2050.  (Summary of the 547-page report)

  • The plan is widely viewed as a roadmap the Democrats may follow for developing climate policy legislation after the November elections.  The plan is currently not expected to see any action in the GOP-controlled Senate. (Axios, July 1)
  • A series of 1-page summaries describes specific recommendations to reduce GHG emissions for “Buildings” – and for the “Electricity,” “Financial Risk,” Transportation,” and “Manufacturing” sectors.
  • The “Buildings” summary covers both new construction and existing buildings.  It includes proposals to:
    • Set federal energy benchmarking requirements for commercial buildings (which a number of states and localities have already adopted); 
    • Eliminate emissions from new buildings by 2030 by incentivizing states and cities to adopt net-zero codes;
    • Use tax incentives to drive commercial building retrofits;
    • Boost onsite clean energy generation by increasing tax incentives and rebates;
    • Reduce emissions from building construction by incentivizing building reuse and requiring federal buildings to use lower-emission building materials;
    • Increase availability of energy efficient affordable housing; and
    • For federal buildings, enact heightened standards for deep energy retrofits and emissions intensity targets.
  • Select Committee Chair Kathy Castor (D-FL) stated, “Our plan will put people back to work and rebuild in a way that benefits all of us. That means environmental justice and our vulnerable communities are at the center of the solutions we propose.” (June 30 news release)
  • The Roundtable submitted a comment letter to the Select Committee during its public participation period (see Roundtable Weekly, November 22, 2019).
  • The Roundtable’s recently released 2020 Annual Report affirms a proactive “Energy and Climate” policy agenda developed by its Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee, chaired by Anthony E. Malkin (Chairman, President and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust) and vice-chaired by Dan Egan (Senior Vice President, Vornado Realty Trust). 

The Empire State Building’s successful sustainability efforts are the focus of a recent Washington Post  profile, which details the “deep retrofit”  led by Malkin and completed in 2010.  “A decade later, the Empire State Building saves more than $4 million a year on its electric bill; the project is expected to pay for itself twice over,” the Post reports.  (Empire State of Green, May 27, 2020)

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House Democrats Aim for 100 Percent “Clean Energy Economy” by Mid-Century; Proposal Includes Ramped-Up Building Codes

Pallone podium Clean Future Act x375

Democratic leaders on the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee released a far-reaching bill on January 28, signaling their plans for climate legislation based on the outcome of next November’s elections.  The bill includes rigorous efficiency targets for building energy codes and a framework to drive the U.S. electric grid toward net-zero carbon emissions. [E&C press release]

  • “The CLEAN Future Act,” sponsored by E&C Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) — above in photo — and Subcommittee Chairmen Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Bobby Rush (D-IL), would implement a climate policy framework announced last month.  [See Roundtable Weekly, January 10]  The 622-page “discussion draft”  sets an overall target for a “100 percent clean energy economy” by 2050. 

  • The draft proposes a number of de-carbonization and renewable energy mandates and incentives affecting the real estate, power generation, transportation, and manufacturing sectors of the U.S. economy.  [CLEAN Future Act section-by-section analysis]
  • Commercial and residential buildings would be subject to increasingly stringent “model” energy codes for new construction and major retrofit projects.  States and localities typically adopt these model codes into law, but they have authority to alter them.
  • The CLEAN Future Act would require codes to reach a target for buildings to save 50 percent more energy by 2030 (relative to a 2016 baseline).  The bill’s 50-percent-improvement target would not consider the expenses incurred by owners and developers to install more costly – but efficient – HVAC, windows, lighting, and other equipment in their assets.  In contrast, a competing bipartisan proposal pending in the House and Senate — known as the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act — would evaluate cost effectiveness and small business impacts as iterations of energy codes are developed.  

  •  The Roundtable has long-supported the ESIC Act, sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and David McKinley (R-WV).   [Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 27, 2019].

  • While the CLEAN Future Act’s building-related provisions emphasize increasingly stringent energy codes, it does not impose energy consumption, carbon reduction, or “labeling” mandates on building owners that have gained traction at the state and local levels.  [E.g., Roundtable Weekly, April 19, 2019].  Nor does the bill propose a “tax on carbon” as a means to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Other notable elements of the CLEAN Future Act include: 
  • Creation of a market to buy and sell “clean energy certificates,” to drive more renewable energy to the U.S. electric grid and render the electricity sector “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2050;
  • New federal loan and other incentive programs to help finance microgrids and “distributed energy” projects, which would trigger Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements;  
  • Mandate connection of renewable energy facilities to the electric grid, and eliminate any monopolies in the U.S. where public utilities control all levels of production, transmission, and sale of power in wholesale electricity markets; and
  • Projects supported with federal funds must “buy clean” construction materials and products that generate lower greenhouse gas emissions during their manufacture. 

In addition to the CLEAN Future Act, the House’s Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is expected to release its own principles for legislation by the end of March. [Roundtable Weekly, Nov. 22, 2019]. 

Prospects to advance the CLEAN Future Act through Congress this year are virtually zero, as the bill does not presently align with Republican priorities in the Senate.  Nonetheless, as Democrats are soliciting input on their climate framework, The Real Estate Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) has convened a “task force” process to review the omnibus package and provide comments to the bill’s House majority sponsors.

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House Democrats Outline Climate Legislation, Address Buildings and Energy Efficiency


House Democrats on Jan. 8 released a legislative framework on climate policy that addresses buildings and energy efficiency among its sector-specific proposals. The goal for the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for Our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act is to achieve overall net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) for the United States by 2050.

  • The legislative text of the draft CLEAN Future Act will be released by the end of this month while hearings and stakeholder meetings continue throughout the year. (Committee news release, Jan. 8).
  • The proposal addresses the efficiency of new and existing buildings, as well as the equipment and appliances that operate within them.  The bill proposes national energy savings targets from continued stringency of model building energy codes (frequently adopted into law at the state and local level), with a requirement of “zero-energy-ready buildings” by 2030.
  • The legislative framework also proposes requirements on utilities and other retail electricity suppliers to de-carbonize the U.S. electric grid.  Under the proposal, they must provide an increasing supply of clean electricity to consumers starting in 2022, rising to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
  • The legislative framework will also direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to facilitate the integration of localized distributed energy, energy storage, and renewable energy resources into the electric grid.
  • While the CLEAN Future Act proposal is not expected to garner support from Republicans, measures that would “clean” the electric grid and direct FERC to modernize energy markets could theoretically impact emerging obligations on building owners to comply with certain local-level carbon reduction mandates (such as New York City’s Local Law 97.)  (See Roundtable Weekly, April 19, 2019)
  • Meanwhile, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is expected to issue legislative policy recommendations by March 31, 2020.  (See Roundtable Weekly, October 25, 2019)
  • The Real Estate Roundtable submitted detailed energy and climate policy recommendations to the House Select Committee on November 21, 2019.  The comments offer a suite of priorities developed by The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC), including:

* Improve the model building energy codes process by enacting the Portman-Shaheen Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act. (Roundtable Weekly, September 27, 2019)

* Enhance EPA’s voluntary ENERGY STAR incentive programs for both commercial buildings and tenants.

* Create meaningful accelerated depreciation periods to encourage investments in high performance equipment to retrofit existing commercial and multifamily buildings. (Roundtable Weekly, May 10, 2019)

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has stated the House will act on a climate bill in 2020 (Bloomberg Environment, Dec. 6, 2019).  Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) also told reporters this week that climate policy would be a “huge issue” this year. (E&E News, Jan. 9)
  • In the Senate, a different approach to energy policy has evolved over the past year.  The Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee passed 52 bills in 2019 on a largely bipartisan basis.  Several of these bills address commercial and residential real estate, including the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC) Act (Portman-Shaheen), long-supported by The Real Estate Roundtable.
  • The ESIC Act “is exactly the kind of smart, forward-looking policy that will help building owners respond to our modern, evolving economy” Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer stated in a Senate news release upon the bill’s introduction this past summer.  (Roundtable Weekly, July 19) (Video of DeBoer’s statement)

Energy and climate legislation will be a focus of discussion during The Roundtable’s upcoming January 28 State of the Industry Meeting in Washington.  The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) will also meet on January 29.

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