Senators Coons and Markey Show Leadership in Energy Efficiency
The Alliance to Save Energy is privileged to have 17 influential Members of Congress serving as honorary members of our Board of Directors. Through their strong leadership, the Alliance has continued to advocate for the advancement of energy efficiency to achieve a healthier economy, a cleaner environment and energy security. In this series, we will highlight the excellent work of our Honorary Vice-Chairs and the states they represent. In this seventh installment we will highlight the tremendous efforts of Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Ed Markey of Massachusetts to encourage the passage of energy efficiency legislation.
Senator Chris Coons (D-De.)
Sen. Coons joined the U.S. Senate in 2010 after winning the special election for the seat vacated by now Vice President Joe Biden. He recently won a full 6-year term in November 2014. Although he has only been in the Senate for a few years, Sen. Coons has earned a reputation as a strong leader committed to finding bipartisan solutions to national issues. His ability to find common ground on difficult issues is reflected in his stance on energy policy, where promotes the need for an “all of the above” approach. With this perspective, Sen. Coons has become a prominent force for energy efficiency and renewable energy legislation during his time in the Senate. His efforts to advance energy efficiency policy led to his election as an Honorary Vice-Chair to the Alliance in 2012.
Sen. Coons has been very active in his involvement with energy efficiency legislation. He is a longtime supporter of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, which was introduced by Alliance Honorary Vice-Chairs Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and continues to be a focal point for Senate deliberations. Along with Alliance Honorary Vice-Chair Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), Sen. Coons introduced S. 2052, the Weatherization Enhancement and Local Energy Efficiency Investment and Accountability Act, which would have led to energy efficiency improvements through an extension of the Weatherization Assistance Program and by creating competitive grants to fund energy efficiency retrofit projects for certain charitable organizations. He also introduced S. 795, the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act, which would have helped reduce barriers and bring in capital for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Sen. Coons was the driving force behind the introduction of S. Res. 562, which expressed the Sense of the Senate that energy saving performance contracts (ESPCs) and utility energy service contracts (UESCs) are cost-effective contractual vehicles to reduce energy consumption and should be utilized by the federal government. Sen. Coons was also an advocate for S. 2260, the EXPIRE Act, introduced by Alliance Honorary Vice-Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Or.). The purpose of this bill was to extend dozens of tax incentives that had been allowed to expire for an additional two years, including several important incentives for energy efficiency.
Senator Coons has spent time encouraging Delaware to lead the way. He has visited with clean tech manufacturers who produce products such advanced lighting solutions and has seen how the state’s rural electric cooperatives are incentivizing their members to save energy and money. Senator Coons has also toured buildings that have been recommissioned after undergoing energy efficient upgrades. Delaware has continued to develop strong energy efficiency policies in several areas, specifically in the state government, buildings and transportation sectors. The state government leads the way by offering several financing options for energy efficiency, including the Energy Efficiency Investment Fund for Delaware businesses, the Small Business Energy and Facilities Revolving Loan Fund Program, the Residential Energy Efficiency Loan Program and the Greenhouse Gas Grants Program; all of which provide funding to help businesses and homeowners become more energy efficient. Given the hard work of Sen. Coons to promote ESPCs at the federal level, it should come as no surprise that the state he represents also takes advantage of these contracts for both public buildings and certain private entities. The building sector has also employed energy efficiency and has led to the mandate that all agency buildings must reduce energy consumption 30 percent by the end of 2015 (based on a 2008 baseline) and all new construction must meet or exceed the USGBC LEED Silver standard. Commercial and residential buildings must also comply with ASHRAE’s 90.1-2010 and the 2012 IECC, respectively. Lastly, the transportation sector has been a focal point since 1995 when the state passed the Shaping Delaware’s Future Act, which has helped municipalities develop comprehensive growth plans.
Senator Ed Markey (D-Ma.)
When it comes to clean energy and the environment, Senator Markey has certainly made a name for himself over the course of his nearly four-decade long tenure in Congress. Sen. Markey was initially elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, but, following the appointment of Senator John Kerry (D-MA) as Secretary of State in 2013, Sen. Markey successfully switched to the Senate after winning the special election. Over the course of his time in the House, Sen. Markey was involved in every important energy and environmental bill that was enacted into law including the first energy efficiency bill in 1987, the Clean Air Act in 1990, the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and the fuel economy standards provision in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Additionally, the only climate change legislation to ever pass a Chamber of Congress, H.R.2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, was authored by Sen. Markey and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Ca.). The long-term efforts of Sen. Markey to promote energy efficiency led to his election as an Alliance Honorary Vice-Chair in 1994, making him the longest active Vice-Chair.
The fact that Sen. Markey has switched Chambers has done nothing to slow down his work to advance energy efficiency and clean energy legislation. Sen. Markey introduced S.1627, the American Renewable Energy and Efficiency Act that would have established a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) set at 25% and an EERS target of 15% by 2025. This bill was projected to quadruple America’s clean energy production, create 400,000 jobs and save American households $90 billion by 2030. Earlier this year Sen. Markey introduced S.2165, the Access to Consumer Energy Information (E-Access) Act, along with Alliance Honorary Vice-Chair Sen. Mark Udall (D-Co.), which would have helped consumers better understand their electricity usage by increasing the availability of consumption information. Similarly, Sen. Markey was a cosponsor of S.Res.562, which expressed support for the use of energy performance contracts as a cost-effective and budget-neutral way for the Federal Government to reduce its energy consumption. Beyond Sen. Markey’s extensive work to advance energy efficiency and clean energy in the United States, he has also been a supporter of international efforts. In particular, he introduced S.2433, the Ukrainian Independence from Russian Energy Act, which would help reduce Ukraine’s reliance on Russian energy sources by boosting energy efficiency programs and by providing technical assistance for domestic energy production.
Massachusetts remains the gold standard for energy efficiency as it received the highest score in ACEEE’s annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard for the fourth year in a row. Although strong in almost every sector there are some areas that deserve to be highlighted, particularly those connected to the Green Communities Act and the utility sector. Among other things, the Green Communities Act requires that all new buildings owned or operated by the state must minimize life-cycle costs through energy efficiency and renewable energy and requires that 50% of state-owned vehicles must be hybrid or use alternative fuels by 2017. Massachusetts has set up several programs to help reduce energy consumption from the Enterprise Energy Management System that measures real-time energy use of approximately one-third of the state’s building portfolio (representing 17 million square feet), MassEnergyInsight that is a free tool for cities/communities to use to help identify wasted energy so that they can direct energy efficiency improvements towards problem areas and the Accelerated Energy Program that aims to reduce energy, greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs of 58 million square feet of state buildings. Although some states have recently started to require utilities to offer energy efficiency programs they have been long-established in Massachusetts with electric utilities first offering programs in 1997 and natural gas utilities starting in the late 1980s. The state has set lofty goals for its EERS with annual electric savings starting at 1.4% in 2010 before climbing to 2.6% in 2015 and annual natural gas savings of 0.63% in 2010 up to 1.14% in 2015. All of the utilities in Massachusetts have also been decoupled and have significant incentives to meet all savings goals.
We at the Alliance consider ourselves fortunate to have such strong proponents for energy efficiency as our Honorary Vice-Chairs. We honor them for their tireless support of energy efficiency and look forward to future collaboration as we continue to work to advance the goal of doubling our nation’s energy productivity by 2030.