In the lead-up to the November elections, Democrats continued to draw attention this week on Capitol Hill to energy and climate issues, as the House Energy Subcommittee heard testimony on a number of bills to advance efficiency in buildings and modernize the nation’s electric grid. (Subcommittee hearing and memorandum, Feb 12.)
- The Subcommittee’s review included the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act (H.R. 3962), long supported by The Real Estate Roundtable. The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and David McKinley (R- WV), and is the companion to a Senate version (S. 2137) championed by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). The Senate measure passed its committee in Sept. [Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 27]
- In The Roundtable’s Feb. 11 ESIC Act support letter to House leaders, President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer noted that, “[t]he U.S. real estate sector has made significant strides to improve the energy efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint of America’s building infrastructure over the last decade.” He further described how H.R. 3962 would advance the industry’s energy efficiency efforts. (Roundtable House ESIC Act letter, Feb. 11)
- The ESIC Act would improve the current process to develop “model” building energy codes with new “open government” provisions. Real estate and other stakeholders would be provided a platform to comment on the federal government’s influential role in the codes process, compelling the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to consider cost effectiveness when the agency develops efficiency recommendations for new construction and major retrofits. DOE would also be required to assess the small business impacts of its energy code recommendations.
- The ESIC Act would further direct the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) to coordinate with the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program, when EIA periodically gathers significant nationwide data related to energy consumption in U.S. buildings.
- In addition, the ESIC Act includes innovative provisions – known as the SAVE Act – to assist home buyers with financing energy efficiency improvements as part of the residential mortgage underwriting process.
- Among the witnesses at the Wednesday House hearing was Lowell Ungar, senior policy advisor for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEE), who testified in support of H.R. 3962. Mr. Ungar also spoke at the recent Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) meeting on January 29, regarding the estimated economic and environmental benefits of an accelerated depreciation tax strategy known as “E-QUIP” to motivate “retrofit” project installations of high performance HVAC, windows, lights, and other building equipment. The Roundtable and coalition partners continue to work toward introduction of an E-QUIP bill in the coming months. (E-QUIP Coalition Letter, May 8, 2019).
- The ESIC Act’s building codes provisions – allowing for consideration of financial impacts on businesses and homeowners – contrasts to a recent climate framework released by Democratic leaders.
While the parties’ respective visions on energy and climate policy are coming into sharper focus in advance of next November’s elections, prospects for passing omnibus legislation that clears both the House and Senate this year are low.
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