Obama Launches ‘Better Buildings Initiative’

by | Feb 3, 2011

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Tax breaks, grants and loan guarantees will be among the initiatives in a plan President Obama will outline today, to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 20 percent in the next ten years.

The Better Building Initiative, to be outlined by President Obama today in a visit to Penn State University, would incentivize retrofitting with an aim of reducing companies’ energy bills by about $40 billion a year, the White House said.

The initiative applies to offices, stores, schools, universities, hospitals, and other commercial and municipal buildings.

Commercial building consumed about 20 percent of all energy in the U.S. last year, the White House said.

The five-point plan includes:

  • Tax incentives: The president is calling on Congress to reform the current tax deduction for commercial building upgrades, changing it to a more generous credit. The White House said these changes could lead to a ten-fold increase in commercial retrofits.
  • Financing: The president’s budget will propose a Department of Energy pilot program to guarantee loans for energy efficiency upgrades at hospitals, schools and other commercial buildings.
  • Streamlining incentives for state and municipal governments: Much of the power to alter codes and standards for commercial energy efficiency lies with states and localities, the White House said. The president’s budget will propose competitive grants to states or local governments, or both, to encourage them to streamline these standards.
  • The Better Buildings Challenge: The president will challenge CEOs and university presidents to make their organizations leaders in saving energy. Partners will commit to a series of actions to make their facilities more efficient, and will be eligible for technical assistance, and best-practices sharing through a peer network.
  • Other initiatives: Using existing authorities, the administration said it is working to institute a number of reforms, including improving transparency around energy efficiency performance and providing more workforce training in areas including energy auditing and building operations.

The Wall Street Journal noted that in a conference calls with reporters, administration officials would not say how much the program will cost.

They said further details on the program would appear in the president’s budget proposal, due out later this month.

Pictured: President Obama delivers the State of the Union address. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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