In his State of the Union address in January, President Barack Obama announced plans to increase incentives for making existing U.S. buildings more energy efficient. His Better Buildings Initiative calls on private and public entities to make a commitment to increase efficiency in all commercial buildings by 20 percent by the year 2020, potentially reducing energy costs by $40 billion per year.
The plan includes increasing incentives and challenging the private sector to make changes to existing building stock, thereby stimulating the U.S. economy.
The plan calls for a revamping of current tax credits for commercial building upgrades, making them more generous and providing more motivation for owners and investors to make changes. It is expected these incentives could increase the number of retrofit projects by ten times their current level.
Access to Financing
The Small Business Administration will step in to encourage lenders to release funds for commercial retrofit projects. Recently loan limits have been raised for energy efficiency projects in an attempt to encourage business owners to make these investments. In addition, the Department of Energy will provide guarantees on loans to hospitals, schools, and other commercial buildings.
“Race to Green”
Local and state governments that “streamline standards, encouraging upgrades and attracting private sector investment” will be eligible for grants from the Federal Government.
Better Buildings Challenge
The President is challenging CEOs and university presidents to make energy efficiency a priority in their buildings. By making a public commitment to this challenge, they will receive public recognition, technical assistance, and a chance to learn from others through peer networking.
The President is also looking ahead to the future of green building and energy efficiency in the U.S. The program includes “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.”
The Better Buildings Initiative doesn’t solve all the woes of our struggling economy, but it does provide incentives for those on the fence about making upgrades. In fact, my own state, Oregon, recently launched a program to provide energy audits of all the schools in the state. This will almost immediately create needed jobs and revenue in the private sector. If the audits are then followed by energy upgrades, that would stimulate the Oregon economy for years to come.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.