In a rare and demonstrable showing of bipartisan cooperation, the House of Representatives passed a package of energy efficiency provisions.
In a 398-2 vote, members passed the American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act (HR 6582). The Senate passed a somewhat different version last month and now returns to the Senate for final approval.
The bill is fairly weak though and shows how little people expect from Congress these days.
"At a time that Washington is grid-locked, it is notable that the only energy bill with enough bipartisan support to pass is one that targets energy efficiency," says Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). "This bill is a modest but bipartisan step forward, one we hope the next Congress can build upon."
The bill makes a number of technical corrections to equipment efficiency standards previously enacted by Congress, helping to make the program function better. In addition, the bill includes provisions to better coordinate industrial research and development activities among government agencies, reduce barriers to deployment of industrial energy efficiency, promote best practices for advanced metering among government agencies, and improve data collection for federal energy and water management efforts.
It builds upon two pieces of legislation that were previously reported out on a strong bipartisan basis by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. These are the Energy Savings and Industrial Competiveness Act (S. 1000) introduced by Senators Jean Shaheen (D-NH) and Robert Portman (R-OH) and the Implementation of National Consensus Appliance Agreements Act (S. 398) introduced by Energy Committee Chair Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).
Groups are still pushing for a Senate vote on the full Shaheen-Portman bill during the lame duck session. It calls for: a National Model Building Code; establishing training centers to build skills in energy efficiency technologies; an expanded DOE loan guarantee program for efficiency upgrades; zero-interest loans to rural public utilities and electric coops to support low-interest energy efficiency loans for customers; and updated efficiency standards on outdoor lighting and residential appliances such as heating and cooling systems.
Here's a list of what's covered from each of the Senate bills.
- Coordination of research and development of efficiency technologies
- Study to be conducted on barriers to industrial electrical efficiency
- Best practices for advanced metering in the federal government
- Federal energy management and data collection standards
- Technical corrections and specific fixes to recently enacted standards under the Department of Energy's 25-year-old appliance efficiency program
- Uniform treatment of conventional and tankless water heaters
- Clarification of periodic review of commercial equipment standards and of DOE’s response to petitions regarding standards
Some aspects of the bill are controversial and fall short of what the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) has been advocating for.
It allows manufacturers more flexibility in how they meet efficiency standards for walk-in coolers, and eases rules for water heaters and over-the-counter refrigerators.
But ASE hails the rare consensus that has helped advance these modest improvements, especially given the legacy of ongoing attacks that Republicans have leveled against energy efficiency over the past year, even questioning the value of energy standards altogether.
“When we joined with Sens. Shaheen and Portman a year and a half ago to launch their bill, many doubted that Congress had the will to take up energy efficiency legislation,” says Kateri Callahan, president of ASE. “The House action demonstrates that energy efficiency can bridge the bipartisan divide, and it is a testament to the leadership and tenacity of Sens. Shaheen, Portman, Bingaman, and Murkowski.”