In a continued period of falling energy prices, for oil and natural gas as well as renewables, and in an era when energy use in the U.S. has not increased in decades (despite the increase in population), Congress passed an energy bill.
The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015, S. 535, a portion of this bill was formerly known as the Better Buildings Act of 2015, passed the House of Representatives last week and on April 23rd was presented to the President for signature. Senators Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire have been working to get an energy efficiency bill passed for years and they have now succeeded, although this bill has no mandates and only requires the federal government (and no one else) to undertake some very modest, low cost, acts.
Senate bill 535 requires the General Services Administration to develop and “publish” model leasing provisions to encourage building owners and tenants to use greater cost-effective energy efficiency and water efficiency measures in commercial buildings; and, develop policies and practices to implement the measures for the realty services provided by the GSA to agencies.
The bill amends the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to require the Department of Energy to “study” the feasibility of improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings through the design and construction of spaces with high-performance energy efficiency measures.
This bill also amends the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to provide additional energy conservation standards for grid-enabled water heaters for use as part of an electric thermal storage or demand response program. Apparently the import of that is to exempt certain electric resistance water heaters used in demand response programs from pending DOE regulations.
Codifying the current practice, this legislation also requires a federal agency leasing space in a building without an Energy Star label to include in its lease provisions requirements that the space's energy efficiency be measured against a nationally-recognized benchmark. The agency must also meet certain energy consumption disclosure requirements or explain why it does not.
DOE is now required to maintain a database for storing and making available public energy-related information on commercial and multifamily buildings.
Arguably the most significant new program to come out of this bill is that,
The Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy, shall develop a voluntary program within the Energy Star program established by section 324A of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6294a), which may be known as Tenant Star, to promote energy efficiency in separate spaces leased by tenants or otherwise occupied within commercial buildings.”
Within Tenant Star, the EPA may develop a voluntary program to recognize commercial building owners and tenants that use high-performance energy efficiency measures in the design and construction of leased spaces.
Tenant Star will present business opportunities and may some day be a market driver in the commercial real estate sector. Such is close enough for government work.