In a move that has been praised by environmental activists and energy businesses alike, the US Senate has passed a bill promoting energy efficiency in buildings. The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 was passed with overwhelming support of 95 votes to 4, marking a rare display of unity in a polarized political environment.
The bill stipulates that the Department of Energy must draw up model commercial building codes that states can voluntarily adopt, and also mandates federal agencies to form energy-saving strategies for their owned buildings. The bill isn’t the first of efforts aimed at enshrining energy efficiency gains in law, but it is the first real success in this area for years.
The success of the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act comes among a backdrop of polarized attitudes from the Keystone XL pipeline being vetoed by President Obama, as environmentalists call for more renewable energy to prevent climate change, whilst Republicans seek ways to phase out some of the major environmental regulations of the Obama Administration.
However, the Energy Efficiency Act is a rare example of a policy that has true bipartisan support, amongst both environmental activists and business leaders across the US. Upon its passing, a joint statement was released from groups including the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). In this statement, they said, “Today’s action is a brilliant example of a legislative victory that is good for the economy and good for the environment. This bill will help businesses across the country save both energy and money and will help create jobs. We believe this is the kind of progress we can expect when leaders with different viewpoints work together to craft policy solutions.”
Whilst energy efficiency gains have been slow to be realised, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act shows that the potential exists within businesses and construction to reduce energy consumption, save money and tackle global warming all at the same time. America is famously known as a “policy-taker” rather than a “policy-maker” when it comes to energy efficiency, with most of its initiatives reflecting its successes in Europe, but with increasing interest from US businesses in this area, this new policy could be a turning point for the industry.