Earlier this month, President Obama, in a speech at Penn State University, called energy efficiency the best (albeit least sexy) way to a job producing clean energy economy. [By the way, NEEC members who subscribed to the NEEC RSS feed would have read about this immediately on the new NEEC News Blog posting site – sign up on the NEEC home page, it’s free and easy.] The President laid out a 5 point plan for jump starting the commercial/institutional building retrofit market.
• New tax incentives for building efficiency: The President is calling on Congress to redesign the current tax deduction for commercial building upgrades, transforming the current deduction to a credit that is more generous and that will encourage building owners and real estate investment trusts (REITs) to retrofit their properties. These changes could result in a ten-fold increase in commercial retrofit take up, leveraging job-creating investments.
• More financing opportunities for commercial retrofits: Access to financing is an important barrier to increased retrofit investment in some market segments. To address these gaps, the Small Business Administration is working to encourage existing lenders to take advantage of recently increased loan size limits to promote new energy efficiency retrofit loans for small businesses. The President’s Budget will also propose a new pilot program through the Department of Energy to guarantee loans for energy efficiency upgrades at hospitals, schools and other commercial buildings.
• “Race to Green” for state and municipal governments that streamline regulations and attract private investment for retrofit projects: Much of the authority to alter codes, regulations, and performance standards relating to commercial energy efficiency lies in the jurisdiction of states and localities. The President’s Budget will propose new competitive grants to states and/or local governments that streamline standards, encouraging upgrades and attracting private sector investment.
• The Better Buildings Challenge: The President is challenging CEOs and University Presidents to make their organizations leaders in saving energy, which will save them money and improve productivity. Partners will commit to a series of actions to make their facilities more efficient. They will in turn become eligible for benefits including public recognition, technical assistance, and best-practices sharing through a network of peers.
• Training the next generation of commercial building technology workers: Using existing authorities, the Administration is currently working to implement a number of reforms, including improving transparency around energy efficiency performance, launching a Building Construction Technology Extension Partnership modeled on the successful Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Commerce, and providing more workforce training in areas such as energy auditing and building operations.
Conversations are already underway in Seattle about undertaking a Seattle Better Building Challenge as a means to demonstrate national leadership on the President’s idea. NEEC member comments on the NEEC blog about this idea are welcome and will be shared with key stakeholders.