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By Ed Sullivan
January 2004 -
Amid all the hijinks and high drama surrounding the energy policy legislation last fall, it was hard to learn the fate of a modest provision that would have helped to improve energy security, help prevent future blackouts, reduce pollution and save a bit of money for facility executives.
The measure, which had appeared in earlier versions of the bill, provided tax incentives for buildings that installed energy-efficient technologies. To judge by the lack of coverage in the national media, those tax deductions had disappeared from the version of the bill reported out by the conference committee.
But the deductions had survived. The conference committee version of the bill provided a $1.50-per-square-foot tax break for energy-efficient lighting, HVAC or building envelope technology. To qualify, a building would have to reduce energy use by 50 percent below levels called for by ASHRAE’s energy standard, 90.1-2001. In existing buildings, a 50-cent-per-square-foot deduction could be taken for lighting, HVAC or building envelope improvements that met energy-saving targets. The bill put a sunset date on the deductions of Dec. 31, 2007.
The failure of the measure to become law was bad news for facility executives. But the fact that the deductions survived the conference committee may be good news, an indication Congress is beginning to understand an important point: The multiple benefits of encouraging energy efficiency in commercial and institutional buildings merit at least a small investment of taxpayer dollars. Stay tuned.