A number of bipartisan energy-efficiency bills have emerged or been reintroduced in the 112th Congress. The following four Senate and three House bills are representative of the suite of legislation that aims to incentivize energy-efficiency in homes and businesses. There many bills not listed here, including bills that would extend tax incentives for efficiency upgrades and bills regarding appliance standards. For more information on energy efficiency legislation, visit the Alliance to Save Energy at ase.org or the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy at aceee.org.
Introduced by: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)
ESICA would increase industrial efficiency assessments and coordinate those efforts on a regional scale. The bill would direct federal appropriations to alleviate some of the cost to lenders of revolving loan programs that help industrial plants reduce energy intensity, and would require the Department of Energy to establish an inventory of cost-effective energy-efficient technologies that assist energy-intensive industries. Other provisions that would assist commercial and industrial sectors increase energy-efficiency include a Supply Star program, modeled after the Energy Star appliance program, that would recognize energy-efficient supply chains.
Introduced by: Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.)
This bill directs the DOE to research the intersection of water consumption and energy use by studying topics such as water use at power plants and the amount of energy used associated with water use. Under this bill, new program would provide technical assistance to rural water and wastewater utilities that are trying to increase energy efficiency and water conservation.
Introduced by: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)
According to the Alliance to Save Energy, “The SAVE Act would require federal mortgage agencies’ standards to account for the energy savings of an efficient home in determining mortgage caps.” Energy costs are a significant part of the cost of home ownership, but loans for homebuyers don’t typically reflect the energy-efficiency of a home. Because more efficient homes save homeowners money annually, borrowers in more energy-efficient homes will have more available funds to make mortgage payments. The SAVE Act would spur energy-saving retrofits to existing homes and create an incentive for builders to increase efficiency in new homes. Implementing the SAVE Act would not require any taxpayer money.
Introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Co.) and Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)
The e-KNOW Act would improve the ability of electricity consumers to access data on their electricity use. Utilities would be required to provide energy use data to ratepayers with smart meters within 48 hours of data being recorded by the utility, and utilities would also be required to provide energy use information to ratepayers without smart meters.
Introduced by: Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.) and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah)
This bill complements the Senate’s Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, though it is narrower in scope. The bill calls for industries to increase their use of Combined Heat and Power, a system that increases fuel efficiency by recovering excess heat lost during the generating process. The Smart Energy Act also expands the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program for energy-efficient building upgrades and directs the DOE to establish research and development partnerships with other departments to promote the development and commercialization of energy efficiency technologies.
Introduced by: Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.), Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.)
Property Assessed Clean Energy is a financing technique that helps homeowners manage the upfront cost of energy-efficiency upgrades by paying it back incrementally in conjunction with their yearly property taxes. Municipalities with PACE programs are able to sell bonds and use the proceeds to pay the initial cost of renewable energy and energy efficiency retrofits, using a model that is used for other municipal bond investments, like sidewalk repairs, that are paid back over time through taxes.
The secondary mortgage market, including lenders such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, has stopped financing homes in participating districts, arguing that a new tax assessment puts mortgage lenders lower on the list for homeowners to pay back. PACE supporters argue that the energy savings outweigh the tax assessment, which saves homeowners money and makes it more likely that borrowers will be able to repay lenders. The bipartisan PACE Assessment would codify that PACE assessments are not loans that violate mortgage practices.
Introduced by: Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.)
The HOMES Act would authorize $500 million annually from 2013 to 2016 for homeowner rebates toward residential energy-efficiency improvements. Qualifying home energy-efficiency retrofits would include insulation, air and duct sealing, better windows, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment. The HOMES Act would also fund complementary financing programs at the state level.