Top Down Approach - Will the Government Set A Good Example For Energy Savings

Published: Thu 19 Dec 2013
A blog entry by Michele Duchet

Contributed by:

Michele Duchet
Content Manager
Alberta Energy Providers

Michele Duchet's Blog

When you think of government, you don't necessarily think of saving money. Actually, you probably think the opposite. Well, lawmakers are attempting to change that by introducing a bill that that would encourage energy-efficient measures to be adopted in all government buildings as well as in homes. The Senate will debate this bill next week.

The bill is supposed to be one of the more comprehensive bills introduced on this matter, and marks the first time that the upper chamber will even consider substantive energy legislation since 2007. A Democratic aide said that lawmakers are still negotiating a deal on amendments to the proposed bill so that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will accept it.

This time around, it's expected to gain some traction. Controversial amendments held up a similar bill last session, though insiders say that Reid was reluctant to trigger a vote on those messaging and greenhouse gas emissions regulations.

The sponsors of the bill, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Rob Portman, are encouraging colleagues to withhold similar controversial amendments so that the bill stands a chance this time around. Shaheen said that lawmakers were more concerned about reducing the number of amendments offered rather than their substance.

If passes, the bill would authorize numerous initiatives to encourage homeowners, manufacturers, and even the government itself to save energy. While it's unclear that this would lessen the strain on electric and power providers, and the national grid, it's got broad support both on and off The Hill.

That's surprising because it's rare when both Republicans and Democrats agree on anything - especially when it involves scaling back government expenses. But numbers don't lie.

It passed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with a 19-3 vote in May. That has resulted in endorsements from groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the Alliance to Save Energy, the National Resources Defense Council, and the National Association of Manufacturers.

One of the more promising aspects of the bill is the requirement that the federal government employ energy-saving practices at all of its buildings. This is important because the government is one of the largest energy consumers in the world. Annual energy-related spending runs between $290 and $610 billion. The disparity in the figures is largely due to differing views on what share of security spending is energy-related, but what's not disputed is that at least 6 percent of all government spending and tax breaks are devoted to energy-related expenses.

Most of this is done via public investment. Does this mean that the government will cut back on infrastructure, energy-related security spending, fuel for military aircraft, transportation services, and energy for other government activities? No firm numbers have been released yet as to just how much the government will cut back.

Outside of government, the bill would provide significant incentives for businesses and manufacturers to install more energy-efficient technologies. It would also encourage businesses to promote workforce training and the development of new building codes for enhanced energy efficiency.

Lisa Barnes is an energy expert. She loves writing about alternative energy sources on homeowner blogs. Visit Reliant Energy for more energy saving information.