This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

February 09, 2011

President Sets Better Buildings Initiative for Energy Efficiency

Following his call in his State of the Union for clean energy advances, President Obama proposed on February 3 new efforts to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings across the country. His "Better Buildings Initiative" will aim to make commercial buildings 20% more energy efficient over the next decade, and it could reduce energy bills by about $40 billion at today's prices. Through a series of incentives, the plan will encourage private-sector investment to upgrade all types of buildings ranging from offices and schools to universities and hospitals. In 2010, commercial buildings consumed roughly 20% of all energy in the U.S. economy.

The President's budget, subject to Congressional approval, will propose to make American businesses more energy efficient through a series of new initiatives: new tax incentives for building efficiency would transform the current deduction to a credit that is more generous and that will encourage building property retrofits; more financing opportunities for those commercial retrofits, with the Small Business Administration working to encourage existing lenders to take advantage of recently increased loan size limits to promote new energy efficiency retrofit loans for small businesses; a new DOE pilot program to guarantee loans for energy efficiency upgrades at hospitals, schools, and commercial buildings.

Other elements of the proposal are a "Race to Green" for state and municipal governments that streamline regulations and attract private investment for retrofit projects, using new competitive grants to states and local governments that streamline standards; a Better Buildings Challenge to spur CEOs and university presidents to make their organizations leaders in saving energy; and more training for the next generation of commercial building technology workers by launching a Building Construction Technology Extension Partnership modeled on the successful Manufacturing Extension Partnership at the Department of Commerce, and by providing more workforce training in areas such as energy auditing and building operations. The White House said the Better Buildings Initiative will complement programs already launched for government and residential buildings, including the $20 billion in funding for building energy efficiency in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. See the White House press release.