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House of Representatives Passes Energy Efficiency Bill S.535

On April 21, 2015, the House of Representatives passed S.535, which establishes three separate programs to bolster energy efficiency measures in commercial, residential and/or mixed use buildings. This follows the Senate’s unanimous passage of this bill on March 27, 2015.  The President is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming weeks.

Title I of the bill establishes a Better Buildings program recognizing separate leasehold commercial spaces that contain high-performance energy efficiency measures.  The new program will create a Tenant Star designation to promote energy efficiency in separate spaces leased by tenants or otherwise occupied within commercial buildings.  The Tenant Star designation will recognize tenants in commercial buildings that voluntarily achieve high energy efficiency levels and may include design and construction-based recognition for commercial building owners.

Title II establishes grid-enabled water heaters for use in utility districts with demand response and thermal storage programs.

Title III establishes a benchmarking and disclosure requirement for leasing buildings, including single and multi-tenant commercial, single and multi-family residential, and mixed use buildings.  This provision requires a study to determine the criteria and policy language needed to make the benchmarking program most effective, and creates a database for the purpose of storing and making available public energy-related information on targeted buildings.

Taken together, these programs will go a long way in increasing opportunities for energy efficiency in primarily commercial buildings.  Once signed into law, these federal provisions will complement existing MEEA efforts throughout our thirteen-state territory.  MEEA is actively working across the Midwest to establish and implement state and local benchmarking policies.  For instance, in Minnesota, MEEA is working with public and private stakeholders to establish data access and privacy policies to facilitate the benchmarking of buildings with rented space.  In 10 states around the region, MEEA’s Building Operator Certification (BOC) program trains commercial building operators on energy efficiency building systems and operations.  Improving the efficiency of our existing buildings will produce monetary savings for building owners and occupants, improve health and comfort for building tenants, increase productivity, and stimulate economic development and job creation for the region.