Energy-Efficiency Goals for the Obama Administration
Part 1: Obama Administration Promotes Energy Efficiency in Facilities
Obama Administration Promotes Energy Efficiency in Facilities
By Edward Sullivan, Editor - April 2011 - Energy Efficiency
When Michelle Moore left the U.S. Green Building Council to join the White House as federal environmental executive, she didn’t leave the building industry behind. Far from it. If the Obama administration is to reach its goals for carbon dioxide emissions reduction, she told an audience of facility professionals at NFMT, “the community you all represent is incredibly important. How we manage and operate our buildings is the biggest piece of our footprint.”
Moore spoke at a session sponsored by the Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments, a group of international building industry manufacturers that promotes economically and environmentally sustainable choices for facilities.
To drive energy efficiency improvements in buildings, the Obama administration has developed the Better Buildings Initiative, a package of proposals designed to cut energy use in commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2020, which would save companies $40 billion a year in energy costs, in today’s dollars, according to the administration. The strategy is to take steps that encourage private-sector investment in building efficiency.
The Better Buildings Initiative is in line with the Obama administration’s overall strategy of strengthening the economy by “out-competing, out-educating and out-building” other nations, Moore said.
Moore divided the Better Buildings Initiative proposals into two buckets. The first group can’t be accomplished without new money, which will take an okay from Congress:
• Improve the tax benefits for energy efficiency upgrades. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides tax deductions for upgrades that meet certain efficiency targets, but have not been widely used. Obama is calling for a tax credit to replace that tax deduction. “This is a significant improvement to what’s not really working as a tax deduction today,” Moore said.
• Expand financing opportunities for energy upgrades. A new pilot program through the Department of Energy would expand federal loan guarantees for energy efficiency upgrades. That initiative would complement an existing program run by the Small Business Administration (SBA); earlier this year, the SBA program was expanded to cover loans up to $5 million. The White House will be working with SBA to encourage lenders to take advantage of the new limits.
• Use grants to encourage energy efficiency. The Better Buildings Initiative would create a “Race to Green” by providing $100 million in competitive grants to states and municipalities to try to leverage their authority to update codes and regulations to support upgrades.
The second category of proposals under the Better Buildings Initiative involves steps the Obama administration can take without Congressional action. One example is expanding training on energy audits, retrofits and building operations. Another strategy is to challenge top executives to save energy. Under the Better Buildings Challenge, corporate CEOs and university presidents would commit to making facilities more efficient; ones who do would get public recognition plus access to technical assistance and a network of peers that could provide best-practices information.