Warner said the program seeks to lower consumer energy bills, create jobs and increase economic competitiveness.
Introduced by Warner and Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., the “State Energy Race to the Top” legislation incorporates a national goal of doubling the productivity of electricity use by 2030, encouraging new approaches to energy productivity through a voluntary program for states and localities.
The bill would leverage limited federal funding and not impose mandates.
Research indicates the U.S. currently wastes more energy than it uses with 57 percent of energy produced wasted as heat, noise and leaks, costing businesses and households an estimated $130 billion annually, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. The bipartisan, nonprofit group is co-chaired by Warner. The alliance recommends creating, funding and implementing an energy productivity competition for states.
“America is dead last among developed nations in energy productivity. Even China ranks ahead of the U.S. Our country needs a new approach to energy that recognizes the value of improving energy productivity to increase our competitiveness,” Warner said.
“By empowering our states and local communities to take a leadership role, this friendly competition can make a difference right where it really matters.”
The program seeks to cut in half the energy wasted in homes and businesses over the next two decades. States would receive federal support to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings, retrofitting existing structures, upgrading inefficient appliances and other energy productivity measures.
The bill is modeled on the federal “Race to the Top” framework targeting public education, a competition among 19 states to raise student standards and improve teacher effectiveness.
The energy competition initiative empowers the federal government to challenge states and local governments to design effective programs to boost energy productivity using a $200 million incentive fund.
Up to 25 states would compete for $60 million to develop energy productivity programs and policies. States must demonstrate how the money would be spent, how the savings and increased energy productivity would be measured, and how the funds can be leveraged through cooperative efforts with utilities.
Eighteen months after the initial allocation to 25 states, an additional $105 million would be divided among no more than six more states to continue implementation of productivity efforts. $25 million would be set aside for energy productivity programs proposed by utilities, rural electric cooperatives and utilities serving recognized Native American reservations.
The National Research Council would be required to produce an independent evaluation of the program’s performance.
Warner “practices what he preaches, and that’s why we wanted him to help lead our bipartisan commission,” said Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan. “This makes all of our hard work over the past year worth it, and I look forward to continue working with him and other senators to get this bill across the finish line and to the president’s desk.”
Callahan’s group said doubling U.S. energy productivity over the next 20 years would create an estimated 1.3 million jobs, cut carbon emissions and oil and gas imports by one third, and boost the nation’s overall annual economic output by 2 percent.