The National Electrical Manufacturers Association’s (NEMA) High Performance Buildings Council (HPBC) applauds President Obama’s announcement of the creation of an energy efficiency “Race to the Top” program to encourage innovation and competition in state energy efficiency policies.

As President Obama explained in his State of the Union Address:

I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.

A White House report released after the State of the Union offered more details on the plan:

Saving people money by doubling American energy productivity by 2030, starting with a new Energy Efficiency Race to the Top for states: The President is laying out a bold but achievable goal to slash energy waste through increased efficiency. Modeled after a successful Administration approach in education reform, which was designed to promote forward-leaning policy adoption at the state-level, the President’s Budget will include Race to the Top awards. These awards will support state governments that implement effective policies that increase energy efficiency and help decrease waste. Not only will increased efficiency save consumers money, the resulting reforms will drive investments that enhance manufacturing competitiveness, improve grid resiliency, and cut carbon pollution.

The NEMA HPBC applauds this effort to highlight the opportunity for energy savings in America’s buildings, which consume 40% of primary energy and 70% of electricity in the U.S. annually. Achieving the president’s goal of doubling American energy productivity by 2030 is easily achievable if states prioritize policies that encourage smart design, construction, and operation of buildings, including the installation of energy-saving equipment such as lighting, sensors, controls, and integrated systems. All states should start by committing to enforce and update their building codes and standards every three years to coincide with the national revision cycle, which can reduce energy consumption by 30% or more.

“Time and again, the states have demonstrated that they can drive policy innovations that benefit not just their economies, but lead the nation to better practices," said Legrand North America President and CEO and NEMA Chairman John Selldorff. "The strong focus on cutting energy waste and using resources more productively unleashes a powerful multiplier effect.  As building owners reduce their operating costs, capital otherwise spent on energy is unlocked to create jobs. A boost to our economy is generated as manufacturers, distributors, contractors and installers work together to deliver energy saving solutions to the homes and businesses. In today's economic reality, no state can afford to not seize the energy efficiency opportunity.”

“Energy efficiency is the cleanest, cheapest, and fastest way to meet the United States’ growing energy needs," said NEMA President and CEO Evan Gaddis. "NEMA welcomes President Obama’s announcement of the energy efficiency Race to the Top initiative and look forward to identifying ways that the manufacturing industry can offer solutions to aid states in achieving their energy reduction goals.”

“We have some great ideas that can translate into not only savings for buildings owners and consumers, but can also help the nation achieve improvements in energy intensity," said Jim Pauley of Schneider Electric and chairman of the HPBC. "One of those key ideas is the implementation of a strong building energy labeling program that raises the visibility of building energy consumption to the user. Increased energy visibility and comparison to benchmarks from other buildings is one of the best ways to encourage people to take action on improving their energy footprint.”

The NEMA HPBC is eager to engage with the White House, Congress, and states to realize the achievable goal of doubling American energy productivity by 2030 or sooner.  For more information about the NEMA High Performance Buildings Council, please contact Patrick Hughes, policy director for high performance buildings, at patrick.hughes@nema.org.