3 Things You Need to Know About the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015
At the end of April, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 (EEIA) was officially passed in the U.S. Senate by voice vote, delivering an exciting milestone moment for the energy efficiency industry.
The bill, first introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Robert Portman (R-OH) in February of this year, promises to improve energy efficiency in federal and commercial buildings through a focus on tenant energy efficiency and usage benchmarking. President Obama highlighted the bill for its representation of political bipartisanship and its potential for a positive environmental impact, stating:
“...I just want to say how much I appreciate the outstanding efforts that have been made in both chambers and by both parties. There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit -- this is the area where we can have the greatest environmental impact while making sure that we’re creating good jobs and saving businesses and consumers money.”
The Act is composed of three main provisions:
- Creation of New Tenant Star Program
The Better Buildings Act of 2015 requests that the Department of Energy develop model provisions, policies, and best practices for commercial buildings. The resulting study will encourage building and tenant owners to adopt cost-effective energy and water efficient measures.
The EEIA introduces the Tenant Star Program, which serves as the first government- endorsed label in the United States that identifies and acknowledges the opportunity for energy savings and sustainable design for leased spaces within commercial properties. This new platform, similar to Energy Star, will encourages tenants and owners to work together to invest in energy- saving systems and fixtures to cut greenhouse gases.
- Requirement of Federally-Leased Spaces to Benchmark and Disclose Energy Usage
Tenants of space owned by federal agencies without ENERGY STAR labels must participate in energy audits and disclose their energy consumption for local benchmarking programs. Throughout the next two years, the Secretary of Energy will also perform a study on best practices related to energy-performance benchmarking and disclosure policies for commercial and multifamily buildings and on programs where utilities provide building energy usage information to building owners.
- Grid-Enabled Water Heaters Will be Exempt from DOE Efficiency Standards
Large electric resistance water heaters that participate in demand repsonse programs by monitoring the heat during low-demand and high-demand periods will be exempt from Department of Energy regulations. Previously, new government efficiency standards required large electric water heaters to have an energy factor (EF) of at least 2.057, making heat-pump water heaters the only qualifying measure. This would significantly weaken demand response programs throughout the country. With this Act, manufacturers of these water heaters will be now required to report to the DOE the amount of water heaters they ship out each year, but they won't be required to provide water heaters that have an EF of 2.0157 or better. On the operations side, utilities and demand response organizations will also have to report the amount of grid-enabled water heaters activated each year.
The EEIA’s inclusion of federal and commercial tenants in the discussion around energy efficiency is a smart move, taking a much-needed comprehensive approach to improving the quality of buildings. With the creation of the new Tenant Star program, both tenants and owners will be able to track their energy costs and explore best practices to promote energy efficiency within their property. Additionally, demand response program administrators and power cooperatives will be able to continue using large energy efficient water heaters to aid participants in saving money and to properly manage their energy usage. We look forward to seeing this new bill improve the lines of communication between building owners, tenants and government agencies, resulting in far more energy-savings.