Sen. Hirono Takes to Senate Floor, Urges Passage of Bipartisan Bill Promoting Energy Efficiency and Job Creation

Yesterday, Senator Mazie K. Hirono took to the Senate floor in support of a bipartisan bill that would help promote energy efficiency in Hawaii and around the country.

Hirono Touts Hawaii’s Commitment To Sustainability & Energy Conservation As A National Model

Hirono Touts Hawaii’s Commitment To Sustainability & Energy Conservation As A National Model

The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act would help states reduce our nation’s CO2 emissions while also saving taxpayers money by making the federal government more energy-efficient and supporting job creation and training in the commercial building design and operation industry. If signed into law, the bill is estimated to create 164,000 new jobs, yield net annual savings of $13.7 billion, and reduce CO2 emissions by 80.2 million metric tons in the next two decades.

“The policies in this bill make significant progress towards reducing energy costs for consumers and businesses, driving innovation, reducing environmental harm, and positioning the U.S. as a leader in clean energy technology and jobs,” Hirono said on the floor.

Hirono noted how Hawaii is uniquely affected by oil prices as the state most dependent on imported fossil fuel and touted Hawaii’s commitment to sustainability as a national model, highlighting how Hawaii received the Energy Services Coalition’s top award for energy efficiency.

“Hawaii has set some of the nation’s most aggressive goals for generating renewable energy, and improving energy efficiency,” Hirono said. “Thanks to the State of Hawaii’s commitment to improving energy efficiency, Hawaii is the nation’s number one user of energy savings performance contracts. In fact, just a few weeks ago the State of Hawaii was awarded the Energy Services Coalition’s “Race to the Top Award” which recognizes the State’s commitment to pursuing energy savings through performance contracting.”

Hirono’s full remarks as prepared read below:

Mr. President, I want to speak for a few minutes in support of the bill currently before the Senate, S. 1392, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013.

It’s taken a long time for this bipartisan legislation to make it to the floor of the Senate, and I commend Senators Shaheen and Portman, as well as Senators Wyden and Murkowski, and all of their staffs for their hard work.

Energy efficiency doesn’t grab headlines in the same way as fracking, or nuclear reactors, or even renewable energy policies for wind and solar. But this bill is good, solid policy that will shrink energy bills for families and businesses. It is exactly the kind of legislation the Senate should be working on, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

This bill strengthens and updates the voluntary building codes that States and tribes can adopt in order to determine and meet targets for energy efficiency, and continues to strengthen the Federal government’s efforts to reduce energy use.

As the nation’s largest energy consumer, the Federal government can play a significant role in helping to provide a market for innovation in energy efficiency technologies and in turn reduce our nation’s CO2 emissions—while also saving taxpayers money. This is the kind of policy that everyone should be able to agree on.

The bill also provides resources to train workers in energy-efficient building design and operation— a crucial component of making sure that advances in energy efficiency translate into real, well-paying jobs. In addition, the bill provides incentives for more energy efficient manufacturing, and the development and deployment of new technologies.

Finally, the bill would establish a SUPPLY STAR program, which will help provide support to companies looking to improve the efficiency of their supply chains. This program could be particularly helpful to Hawaii, where transportation of goods from the mainland and other places can be very costly.

While individually these provisions may sound like modest proposals or changes, when taken together, the policies in this bill make significant progress towards reducing energy costs for consumers and businesses, driving innovation, reducing environmental harm, and positioning the U.S. as a leader in clean energy technology and jobs.

It goes without saying that the cost of energy is an important consideration for families and businesses across the country. When energy costs go up they can be a drag on the economy.

We see this very clearly in Hawaii, where we are uniquely impacted by the price of oil. In 2011 Hawaii’s energy expenditures totaled $7.6 billion—almost equal to 11 percent of our entire state economy.

In addition, no other state uses oil to generate electricity to the extent that we do in Hawaii. As a result, we have electricity prices that average 34 cents per kilowatt-hour — that’s over 3 times the price on the mainland.

Moreover, 96 percent of the money we spend on energy leaves our islands to buy oil from places outside of Hawaii. That’s money that could be better used creating jobs, bolstering paychecks, or making investments in Hawaii’s future.

Obviously, our state’s energy security and economic potential is severely undermined by a reliance on fossil fuels.

While breaking that reliance is a challenge, it is also an opportunity.

Hawaii has set some of the nation’s most aggressive goals for generating renewable energy, and improving energy efficiency. We’re working to show that renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies aren’t just good for the environment—they can be an engine for economic growth and innovation.

That’s what makes the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act such an important bill. At its core, this legislation is about updating federal energy efficiency policies to better meet the needs of today’s marketplace.

For example, updating voluntary building codes will give States and tribes the opportunity to reduce their energy use while also giving the private sector signals that there will be demand for innovations. The use of energy savings performance contracts is an example.

Energy savings performance contracts are private agreements that make energy and water efficiency retrofits more affordable. A third-party company covers the cost of the upgrade, and it is repaid over time from the resulting savings in energy costs.

Thanks to the State of Hawaii’s commitment to improving energy efficiency, Hawaii is the nation’s number one user of energy savings performance contracts. In fact, just a few weeks ago the State of Hawaii was awarded the Energy Services Coalition’s “Race to the Top Award” which recognizes the State’s commitment to pursuing energy savings through performance contracting.

This is the second year in the row that Hawaii has won this award. These are the types of innovative financing models and partnerships that can happen when there is clear, sustained demand for improving energy efficiency.

Another thing to keep in mind is that even something as unglamorous as improving building codes, or advancing energy efficient construction techniques, can have a profound impact on the lives of families across the country.

In 2011, Hawaii’s first net-zero affordable housing community, Kaupuni Village, opened on Oahu. The 19 single-family homes and community center at Kaupuni Village were constructed to maximize energy efficiency and use renewables to achieve net-zero energy performance. The development has earned LEED Platinum status. Each home in the community was designed with optimal building envelope design, high efficiency lighting, natural ventilation, solar water heating, and ENERGY STAR appliances.

Kaupuni Village also provides affordable homes to Native Hawaiians—a population that has faced many challenges in achieving independence, homeownership, and economic success. And these homes were completed at an average cost of less than half the median sales price of homes on Oahu, which are some of the nation’s highest.

Thanks to technical assistance from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), this partnership between the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, Hawaiian Electric Company, the State of Hawaii, and private and federal partners is a model for other communities.

Homeowners at Kaupuni Village are able to conserve energy—and save money—by optimizing their high-tech homes, while also maintaining a lifestyle firmly rooted in traditions that go back thousands of years. Homeowner Keala Young described her new life at Kaupuni Village by saying: “We grow our own vegetables. We raise our own fresh-water tilapia,” she said. “We are passionate about net-zero living. There is so much pride in our home and our community. We feel we can be an example to others.”

These are the types of stories that I imagine every member of this body wants to do all they can to help write: stories of strong communities, happy families, and new opportunities that create a bright future.

The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act is bipartisan legislation that can help to make those stories real for more people in Hawaii and across the country.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill.

 

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