Energy efficiency may ride climate change, carbon emissions to forefront

Energy efficiency supporters in Washington hope to make the strategy key to supporting climate change and carbon emission goals in 2014.

Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are still working to bring forward the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. The bill’s sponsors took the Senate floor shortly before it closed for recess to give the bill’s come-back a final push for 2013.

“It makes environmental sense, makes good energy sense, makes good economic sense. It makes sense.  It will move this economy forward,” Shaheen told the Senate, according to the Alliance. “This is a win for job creation, it is a win for the environment, it is a win for national security, and it is a win for saving costs."

The long-delayed bill secured bipartisan support but was mired in the federal government’s funding debate in late 2013. The coming year could see Congress become a hotbed for climate change policy, however, as major pieces of the Obama climate change plan become reality, according to a Dec. 28 report in The Hill newspaper. Along with that, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has said the Shaheen-Portman bill’s return is in its top three priorities for 2014.

But legislation is not the only arena in which energy efficiency proponents see the right mix for success in the coming year. The Alliance along with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy submitted joint comments in early December to the Environmental Protection Agency pushing energy efficiency as an important part of the agency’s forthcoming standards on existing power plants. The regulations are expected to be released in June.

The new regulations could be a “big deal” for energy efficiency, said Rodney Sobin, director at the Alliance to Save Energy. Energy efficiency measures could play a significant role in achieving cost-effective emissions reductions, Sobin wrote in a blog post. The jointly filed comments called energy efficiency America’s “first fuel,” and described it as the most abundant, reliable, cleanest and most cost-effective energy resource.

“We strongly support recognition and encouragement of energy efficiency as an emissions reduction strategy and a means to help achieve compliance with air quality regulations,” the two groups said in the comments.