Last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced a comprehensive energy package by a wide bipartisan margin. The Energy Policy Modernization Act, which includes provisions on efficiency, infrastructure, supply and accountability, was approved on an 18-4 vote in the committee.
The bill reflects input from multiple hearings this year and picks up on a number of energy proposals advanced in previous congresses. It also contains provisions that are important to the efficiency of residential and public buildings in the United States.
The efficiency title of the legislation also includes some needed improvements for affordable housing. For example, the bill improves the federal weatherization program by including a new grant initiative in areas including multifamily homes. The bill also includes a demonstration program to improve energy and water efficiency in up to 20,000 units of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) owned or subsidized properties.
In regards to the federal government, the package expands the length of time the federal government can enter into utility savings performance contacts from 10 to 25 years. This longer payback period can assist in doing a more comprehensive upgrade of government buildings. The bill also codifies the administration's goals of reducing energy use in government buildings by 2.5 percent annually from 2016-2025.
The consideration of the amendments brought about some less than desirable outcomes. Senator Rob Portman (OH) offered an amendment that would have included a program to modernize the mortgage and appraisal standards to incorporate efficiency in the underwriting process (many refer to as the SAVE Act). The amendment was unable to advance on procedural grounds. The process also brought about a provision to study the building programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) for possible elimination or consolidation.
Timing of floor consideration isn’t certain, but USGBC is reviewing the bill and will continue to work with Congress and private sector partners to improve efficiency programs in the Energy Policy Modernization Act and in other legislation, which may be considered later this year.