Efficiency First

Efficiency First Blog

June 2015 Legislative Update

Efficiency First supports policy that promotes innovative solutions to addressing the challenges of increasing the energy efficiency of America’s homes and buildings. Along with the commercial and industrial sectors, it is imperative that residential energy efficiency be included as a significant part of the strategy for achieving our energy and climate goals. That’s why we support legislative efforts like these that strive to strengthen and grow the residential energy efficiency industry:

Federal legislation


National Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015: This bipartisan legislation passed Congress earlier this year and was signed into law by President Obama on April 30. This bill primarily addresses commercial buildings. Key components related to the building performance sector include:

  • Tenant Star, a voluntary program for certifying the energy efficiency of both commercial buildings and their occupants. The goal is to provide a stamp of approval that incentivizes both commercial building owners and occupants to make investments in energy efficiency measures.
  • Directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to study the impact that measure upgrades make on energy use in commercial buildings, and to match predicted savings to actual savings, mirroring some current efforts in the residential sector.

Why it matters for building performance: The Tenant Star program could, over time, mean more interest from commercial building owners and tenants in installing building performance upgrades.

Pending Introduction

Residential Energy Efficiency Valuation Act (REEVA) - Soon to be introduced

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

A pilot program to allow the market to determine how public investment  can best be leveraged to deliver actual energy savings and help the residential energy efficiency sector achieve scale.  Energy Efficiency is America’s greatest and most abundant energy resource. However, many of today’s residential energy efficiency policies don’t do enough to foster the conditions needed to help the building performance market scale: innovation, competition, and a drive toward higher and higher quality work.

REEVA is a grant program to states to fund pilot programs that provide payment for units of energy savings from groups of home energy retrofit projects (not individual projects, which are harder to predict because of occupant behavior), creating accountability for savings predictions using actual metered results.   The aggregated real energy savings provided by a contractor or group of contractors would determine a significant percentage of the energy savings payment.

Why it matters for building performance: Measured savings approaches have two potential advantages: 1) It could improve EM&V methods and over time result in more accurate determinations of savings. This could help efforts to securitize energy savings like other commodities, because financial markets and others would have more trust that savings are actually being generated; and 2) A more market-driven structure for delivering savings could let policymakers, regulators and utilities focus on paying for verified savings while allowing the private sector to better innovate on successful ways to deliver energy savings in the market.


The HOMES Act (HR 2194)

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

This bill provides rebates for homeowners to help cover the cost of a home energy efficiency upgrade.  Homeowners begin by hiring an accredited contractor to perform the work; an important criteria that ensures that the contractor is well trained and certified to perform energy efficiency home retrofits. Prior to the start of the project a home energy audit will be performed. The audit will allow the homeowner to sit down with the contractor and select the desired energy savings for the home and scale the project according to the homeowner’s budget and their home’s needs. A qualified retrofit under the HOMES Act would be carried out by the contractor and the homeowner’s rebate will be based on the predicted energy savings.

Why it matters for building performance: Instead of maintaining an exhaustive, up-to-date  list of equipment specifications, offering incentives based on predicted savings can allow the rebate to keep pace with an ever-changing industry and react to market forces.

“Shaheen-Portman”: Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2015 (S.720):

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

Otherwise known as “Shaheen-Portman”. Much of the legislation deals with energy efficiency in non-residential building sectors, with a couple notable exceptions:

  • SAVE Act: Efficiency First worked with allies to advocate for including the SAVE Act in this legislation. This would direct the federally-backed mortgage purchasing companies (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) to consider energy efficiency and anticipated energy costs when looking at how much a buyer can afford to pay for a home.
  • Building codes: The bill directs DOE to develop model building energy codes, based initially on IECC 2009 (for residential) and ASHRAE Standard 90.1 (for commercial). DOE would require that states analyze the latest model codes and voluntarily certify to DOE whether they are in compliance with them. DOE would also have funding to help states comply with the model code, including funding for training inspectors and more.

Why it matters for building performance: The SAVE Act could mean more homebuyers would qualify to buy energy efficient homes, even if those homes are a bit more expensive than average. This could increase the value of an energy efficient home, providing another motivation for people to build high performing new homes and upgrade existing homes. Wider adoption of current energy codes would help spread best building practices across both the new and existing homes sectors.

Energy Productivity Innovation Challenge Act of 2015 (EPIC) (S. 893)

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

This legislation would provide an opportunity for states to apply for funding to implement best practice energy efficiency policy and programs, to the tune of $100 million per year for 2016 and 2017. For this new version of the legislation, Efficiency First worked with allies in Congress and the energy efficiency community on added language to encourage residential energy efficiency applications that would:

  • “reduce administrative and delivery costs for energy efficiency projects;
  • encourage streamlining and automation to support contractor engagement;
  • and implement systems that encourage private investment and market innovation;”

Energy Efficiency Retrofit Pilot Program (S. 600):

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

A proposed pilot program to fund energy efficiency retrofits for buildings that house nonprofit organizations. The legislation would allocate $150 million for 2015 and $200 million per year for 2016-2018.

Why it matters for building performance: Since this bill deals just with buildings that house nonprofits, the impact on the building performance industry would likely be relatively small. But, if passed it would help nonprofits better afford efficiency upgrades including those performed by building performance companies.

Weatherization Enhancement and Local Energy Efficiency Investment and Accountability Act (S. 703)

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

A bill to authorize funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and increase efforts to develop stronger alignment between projects funded by WAP and private sector home performance contractors. On top of funding for WAP, this legislation would authorize $10 million for pilot initiatives to better align WAP processes with the private sector home performance industry. It would also recognize home performance companies trained to national building performance standards as qualified to perform WAP work (as an alternative to individual state WAP certifications)

Why it matters for building performance: Although WAP-funded programs are structured differently in each state, Efficiency First member companies have consistently expressed the need for better integration of private contractors in WAP. So Efficiency First has advocated for better collaboration that would bring benefits across the board: More highly trained workers, less seasonal challenges for companies, more efficient delivery/installation of energy efficiency projects (both private market and low income) and many more.

Access to Consumer Energy Information (S. 1044 / H.R. 1980)

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

Encourages the adoption of policies that allow consumers to control their own electricity data. This bill would direct DOE to set voluntary guidelines for consumer access to electric utility data.

Why it matters for building performance: Better consumer access to utility data would help home performance companies track the energy savings results of their projects, leading to better and better quality work over time, and could open up opportunities for engaging public and private markets to invest in those savings. This legislation is a step in the right direction. However, it’s voluntary and not mandatory for utilities, and it doesn’t address gas or other non-electric fuels, which can encompass much of the opportunity for energy savings from building performance projects.

Residential Energy Savings Act (S. 878)

Efficiency First Recommends: Support

Allocates $250 million for state/local financing programs that are focused on residential energy upgrades.


Great Blog !

This is a great blog to help us keep up with proposed and pending legislation. Please update it often and let us know when important votes are coming up so we can all contact our representatives to let them know we want them passed.


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