As this issue goes to press, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act of 2013, S. 1392, has been sidelined by the debate in Washington, D.C., over a continuing resolution (appropriations) bill to keep the federal government running. Often referred to as the Shaheen-Portman bill after its lead sponsors, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the ESIC Act was approved May 8 by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a 19 – 3 vote. Cosponsors are Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), and there is a bipartisan companion bill in the House (H.R. 1616).
However, because the ESIC Act is the first energy bill to be taken up on the Senate floor since 2007, it has become a magnet for amendments. Some are energy-related, but others concern the Affordable Care Act (also known as “ObamaCare”). Nonetheless, should the ESIC Act manage to make it through Congress and reach the president’s desk, it will have important implications for building construction:
- ESIC would provide the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Washington, greater input in updates to national building energy codes through the ICC and ASHRAE processes by setting targets beginning at the 2009 IECC and ASHRAE 90.1-2010 levels.
- DOE would be authorized to set targets for national model codes for residential and commercial structures, to adjust them as necessary and to make determinations about whether the targets could be achieved.
- Targets would be subject to rulemakings with public comment periods, and rulemakings would be subject to the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. Also, a “technologically feasible” threshold would be factored into the process along with an “economically feasible” threshold, including return-on-investment analysis. In addition, DOE would have to make its calculation methodology for energy savings publicly available.
- States would have two years to certify reviews and updates of energy provisions in their building energy-efficiency codes and DOE incentive funding would be available to them.
Furthermore, the bill stipulates that, “In establishing building code targets under paragraph (2), the Secretary [of Energy] shall develop and adjust the targets in recognition of potential savings and costs related to–(A) efficiency gains made in appliances, lighting, windows, insulation, and building envelope sealing.” This obviously could offer opportunities for energy-efficiency retrofitters of buildings.