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Energy Efficiency Improvement Act Passed by Senate

By Barbara Vergetis Lundin, FierceEnergy

The Senate has unanimously passed S 535, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015, which is projected to yield roughly $4.6 billion in annual energy savings by 2030, with little cost to taxpayers -- and no government mandates.

"If there is one thing lawmakers from both sides of the aisle can agree upon, it's that energy efficiency is a good thing. It's good for our economy, good for consumers and businesses and good for our environment," said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, after the bill's passing.

In addition to billions in energy savings annually, the bill is expected to create new jobs and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy use from the built environment, which is the largest-consuming energy sector in the U.S. economy; encouraging energy-efficiency practices in leased spaces; allowing the use of grid-enabled water heaters for demand response programs and spurring the benchmarking of energy usage in commercial buildings.

"The Alliance applauds the tireless commitment of the bill's sponsors, our Honorary Chair Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Vice-Chair Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) who have fou,ght for months for the passage of this bill," Callahan said. "A similar bill passed through the House last year with well over two thirds voting in favor. As we look forward to potential comprehensive energy legislation…the passage of S 535 marks the start of a season of bipartisan cooperation on energy efficiency policies that will strengthen the U.S. economy, create jobs, enhance our environment and increase our energy security."

The bill now awaits House approval, which could occur when the House reconvenes in Washington in mid-April. Proponents of the bill are hopeful, due to similar legislation that passed with wide bipartisan support last year.

"While targeted on specific areas (energy efficiency in federal and commercial buildings), this legislation will help move the United States toward greater energy efficiency and promote economic growth," along with energy-efficiency improvements already being seen in some buildings and vehicles, according to Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, who said that these changes in the energy sector are making the U.S. one of the most attractive markets globally for companies who operations entail significant energy-related costs.

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