One day, buildings may display an energy performance label like this prototype developed by ASHRAE.
One day, buildings may display an energy performance label like this prototype developed by ASHRAE.

The following is a summary of energy- and climate-related bills recently introduced into Congress, most of which would help give the remodeling industry a lift through rebates and other direct-to-consumer incentives.

  • EERS: A proposed federal Energy Efficiency Resource Standard [PDF] that would require retail electric and natural gas distributors to reduce energy use 10% by 2020 through energy-efficiency measures.
    Twenty-four states [PDF] have already enacted an EERS, and four have an EERS pending. The net effect will be increased adoption of the IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) and active participation by local utilities and state governments in providing rebates and monetary incentives for residential and commercial energy audits and retrofits.
  • ACES: The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, commonly known as the Waxman-Markey Climate bill after sponsors Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.). The bill passed in the U.S. House on June 26, 2009, but has been on the back burner since then.
  • APA: The American Power Act, a Senate bill introduced in May 2010, by John Kerry (D-Mass.), takes up where the stalled Senate version of ACES left off. Among other measures, the bill would employ a cap-and-trade strategy to encourage major polluters to reduce greenhouse gases 17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050 (versus 2005 levels). Companies can reduce emissions or buy allowances, with some of the proceeds used to fund consumer rebates. If the Congress fails to pass a climate bill, regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency is drawing up will go into effect in January 2011.
  • BEQ: The Building Energy Quotient [PDF], is a national label piloted by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) for commercial property that would disclose key energy performance measurements in a consumer-friendly format similar to the Energy Star rating system used for appliances.

State governments are also showing interest in labels for commercial buildings: for example, Illinois recently authorized a two-year study of labeling systems, and California now requires energy disclosures for all non-residential property. A labeling program that would apply to homes was introduced into ACES, but was removed after strong opposition from the NAR (National Association of Realtors), who claimed that the label would push down the price of older homes.

The home label may be revived in the climate bill that has stalled in the Senate, but the idea is alive in measures such as the Energy Performance Score [PDF] developed by Oregon–based Earth Advantage Institute.

—Sal Alfano, editorial director, REMODELING.