Shaheen-Portman: The Little Energy Efficiency Bill That Could. But Will It?

Credit: U.S. Senate

A bipartisan energy efficiency bill sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) may be on the verge of a Senate breakthrough. That is, it’s an energy bill that might actually pass.

If you’re feeling a sense of déjà vu, it’s because this bill was introduced during the last Congress with the same widespread support and a similarly positive outlook. The main problem back then wasn’t what was in the bill, though; it was the amendments lawmakers were lining up to be tacked onto it, including a controversial Keystone XL amendment. Trying to limit the amount of votes on controversial topics, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ultimately didn’t let it go to the floor.

Despite the disappointing setback, several provisions of the original Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (Shaheen-Portman bill) were adopted as amendments to a previous energy bill, including provisions on industrial energy efficiency deployment and coordination of R&D, best practices for advanced metering, and a federal energy management and data collection standard.

In a Congress that views loan programs with a certain hostility, it’s no surprise that the new bill dropped provisions that would create building loan and revolving loan programs. In their place, it calls for the Secretary of Energy to provide grants to states “to establish or expand programs to promote the financing of energy efficiency retrofit projects for private sector and commercial buildings.”

Aside from the grant program to encourage state energy efficiency financing programs, the reintroduced Shaheen-Portman bill also includes provisions that will directly improve energy efficiency in buildings, industrial processes and federal agencies. More specifically, these measures include strengthening energy efficiency requirements in building energy codes, incentivizing industrial energy efficiency using rebates for certain equipment, encouraging energy efficient supply chains through a new Supply Star program, and requiring federal agency energy savings techniques.

In its preliminary analysis of the new bill, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that Shaheen-Portman would save about 9.5 quadrillion Btu’s between 2014-2030, or nearly one-tenth of the annual energy use of the U.S. In his testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Energy on June 25, 2013, Executive Director of ACEEE Steven Nadel discussed other amendments that could be added to Shaheen-Portman to increase the energy savings, including provisions that would promote benchmarking in large commercial and multifamily buildings, coordinate energy efficiency retrofits at schools, increase energy efficiency efforts in states through a “race-to-the-top” program, and reauthorize the low-income Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the State Energy Program (SEP), among others.

According to The Hill, the Shaheen-Portman bill may be headed to the floor soon and while there’s no shortage of unrelated amendments waiting on the sidelines, Sens. Portman and Shaheen have been working hard to limit them.

As Politico reported last month:

The trick will be to appease a Republican delegation that has long waited for a debate on its energy proposals but not to overload it with amendments that would give Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) an excuse to pull the bill from consideration.

Let’s hope that lawmakers can work together on this common sense legislation, so we can start seeing the benefits of a more efficient economy.

One Response to Shaheen-Portman: The Little Energy Efficiency Bill That Could. But Will It?

  1. MarkF says:

    “Trying to limit the amount of votes on controversial topics, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ultimately didn’t let it go to the floor.”

    Doesn’t majority leader Reid have the power to insist that legislation go for a vote without anything added, removed, or changed?

    I think he does.

    My question then is, why didn’t he do that here?