This piece was originally published in the September/October 2019 issue of electroindustry.
Phil Squair, Vice President for Government Relations, NEMA
Just prior to the August Congressional Recess, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2019 (ESIC). This bill is the latest version of the legacy energy-efficiency proposal that Senators Portman and Shaheen have introduced over the past several Congresses. The primary goal of the bill is to improve energy efficiency in three key sectors—commercial buildings, industrial settings, and the federal government.
Only days later, U.S. Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT), David McKinley (R-WV), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the companion bill in the House. NEMA is particularly pleased that this year’s House bill includes several NEMA priorities for the first time.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, residential and commercial buildings accounted for about 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption in 2018. In addition, reports from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have found that the federal government is the largest single energy consumer in the country.
In reaction to the new bills, NEMA President and CEO Kevin Cosgriff said, “American homes, buildings, and industrial facilities are electrifying, and doing so efficiently. Using energy wisely allows our economy to produce more value at a lower cost with fewer emissions.” He continued, “The 21st-century future will be digital, connected, and electric, as the sponsors wisely surmise. These bills will promote important energy programs and activities to ensure that U.S. buildings and infrastructure are safe, reliable, and efficient in this modernized future.”
NEMA has played an active role in assisting policymakers with drafting the legislation over the years, ensuring several provisions benefit NEMA Members directly. Our top two priorities can be found in Title II of the legislation. The first provision is the extended product rebate program, which incentivizes industrial facilities to upgrade their systems including new motors and controls, helping the customer reduce its energy use by up to 50 percent per application. In addition, the provision allows the DOE to collect information on the projects, so that it can create a list of best practices and case studies to share with the public.
The second NEMA priority is the transformer rebate program, which authorizes a two-year, performance-based pilot program to demonstrate that replacing old transformers with new efficient transformers makes good financial sense for electric utilities and business owners. There are over 40 million distribution transformers in service today, and some of them are 30, 40, or even 50 years old. New energy-efficient transformers are 98–99 percent efficient, so replacing and decommissioning old inefficient transformers before the end of their useful life with new efficient transformers has the potential to significantly reduce energy waste on the electrical grid, in buildings, and in industrial facilities.
Additional provisions contained in the bill that NEMA supports would:
- Strengthen national model building codes to make new homes and commercial buildings more energy efficient while working with states and private industry to make the code-writing process more transparent
- Create a new grant program to assist homebuilders, trades, and contractors with cost-effectively implementing updated building energy codes
- Train the next generation of workers in energy- efficient commercial building design and operation through university-based Building Training and Research Assessment Centers
- Streamline available federal energy-efficiency programs and financing to help improve efficiency and lower energy costs for our nation’s schools
- Expand DOE Industrial Assessment Centers to include community colleges and trade schools and create an internship and apprenticeship program within the initiative
- Allow federal agencies to use existing funds to update plans for new federal buildings using the most current building efficiency Standards
- Establish long-term energy- and water-efficiency goals for the federal government, which will help save taxpayers millions of dollars
For more information on the status and provisions of the bill, please contact Phil Squair, NEMA Vice President for Government Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org. ei