Updated Energy Efficiency Bill Tests Republican Resolve to Make Progress

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A painstaking four-year process to design a non-controversial but meaningful energy bill took another step forward today with the introduction of the latest version of the bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act – commonly known as the Shaheen-Portman bill -- a commonsense approach to cutting energy waste in buildings, industry, and the federal government while saving billions of taxpayer dollars, creating tens of thousands of jobs, and cutting carbon pollution.

The measure has wide support and was developed through extensive review by a broad group of stakeholders seeking to increase investments in energy efficient buildings and technologies.

According to the sponsors, the newest version is estimated to create as many as 190,000 jobs, saving $16 billion annually and avoiding emissions equivalent to taking 22 million cars off the road.

Introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) the 2014 version has garnered increased support which could signal that Congress will be able to move forward with closing the doors and windows on the wasteful ways we construct, fuel, and manage buildings and homes.  

However, for that to happen, Republican members will have to forego the “poison pill” unrelated, controversial amendments that derailed previous versions.

It’s time to take delivery on the bill sponsors’ hard work and check extreme amendments at the door so we can begin implementing important efficiency gains that would benefit all Americans.

Without this measure, the businesses, industries, government and homes in which we live and work will continue to contribute to our national energy and pollution problems rather than help us address and solve them. We owe it to our children to address climate change, and this bill helps pave the way to cutting electricity use and the carbon pollution that is warming our planet and harming our health.

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2014 Changes of Note:

The latest version of the Shaheen-Portman bill includes a number of new provisions that support greater investment in energy efficiency, including:


  • The SAVE Act, which requires federally backed residential mortgage loans to begin to account for the borrower’s expected utility expenses.  Agencies such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA will make adjustments in the underwriting and appraisal process to recognize houses that are more energy efficient, which leads to lower energy expenses. (In 2012, more than 100,000 new homes sold were high-performance Energy Star houses).  It makes sense for the federal mortgage agencies to recognize these important market trends.


  • Establishing a voluntary Tenant Star certification and recognition program to promote energy efficiency in leased commercial building space during design and occupancy. Like the Better Buildings Act of 2013 (HR 2126) that recently passed a House committee and results from NRDC’s High Performance Tenant Demonstration Project, it would save money for tenants and landlords when energy use is decreased. America’s commercial buildings are responsible for over $20 billion in annual energy expenses, of which tenant-leased spaces typically represent 50 percent or more of a building’s overall energy use. Tenant Star is widely endorsed by private industry and energy efficiency advocates.


  • Requiring the Office of Management and Budget to collaborate with federal agencies to promote energy efficiency in data centers and other information technologies. Federal data centers are responsible for at least 10 percent of all U.S. data center energy use. This costs American taxpayers $600 million a year in electricity bills, and is equivalent to the annual output of three 500 megawatt coal-fired power plants, producing 3 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.


For a more comprehensive analysis of the bill, see NRDC’s Factsheet.

photo credits: solar panels on house courtesy Serge Bertasius photography; Solar panels courtesy of franky242.