The North Carolina Building Performance Association (NCBPA) is deeply disappointed that Senate leadership decided last week to table the advancement of HB330, “Efficient Government Buildings & Savings Act,” for the 2019 legislative session. The bill had been on a clean pathway into law after passing the House 111-2 on April 3rd with strong bipartisan support from House and Senate leadership as well as private industry, the Governor’s office, many state agencies, and environmental advocates.
Without HB330, North Carolina will fail to realize these vast economic development and environmental benefits:
- $252 million in net taxpayer savings with no increase in state funding.
- $1.1 billion in energy and water utility savings.
- 1.3% reduction in the state’s total energy usage.
- Employment opportunities for 4,000 North Carolinians.
- Improved health, safety, durability, and productivity in state-owned school and office buildings.
“This unfortunate decision puts the brakes on the continuation of one of our state’s most cost-effective public-private programs, a program that has saved taxpayers more than $1.4 billion since launching in 2003,” said Ryan Miller, NCBPA’s Founder, Executive Director, and principal lobbyist. “Even with all of those savings, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) estimates that an additional $1.1 billion in savings are available. Why wouldn’t we extend such a proven, cost-effective, and impactful program?”
Energy Efficiency is the Nonpartisan Foundation of Clean Energy
The state’s Guaranteed Energy Savings Performance Contracting program (GESPC) has been supported by both sides of the aisle for so many years because of the incredible return on investment it provides. Taxpayers save money, agencies and institutions address critical repair and maintenance needs, and occupants are happier and more productive. The program drives economic development and environmental benefits in ways that few, if any, other state programs can. And it does so without costing the state any new monies or resources.
While many clean energy topics are ripe for partisan politicking in North Carolina, energy efficiency is not. Operating under both Republican and Democrat Governors in 2016 and 2018 respectively, the governor-appointed Energy Policy Council recommended 10% increases to energy and water savings goals in state-owned buildings in its most recent two Biennial Reports to the General Assembly. These are the same increases found in HB330 and the governor’s recent Executive Order #80.
“In addition to being a nonpartisan issue, the great thing about investing in energy efficiency is that it’s the foundation for meeting all clean energy, renewable energy, carbon emission, electric vehicle, and energy storage goals,” said Miller. “Buildings account for nearly 60% of our state’s energy usage and are the most significant contributor of carbon emissions. Clean energy and climate goals are achieved more quickly and more cost-effectively by addressing energy efficiency first.”
The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) is one of two consulting firms currently working on the state’s new Clean Energy Plan, set to be delivered to the governor by October 1 of this year. Research by RMI indicates that building improvements like the ones proposed in HB330 are critical for energy planning: “The most cost-effective way to address the increased energy demands presented by the EV (electric vehicle) revolution is by improving the energy efficiency of buildings. Compared to constructing new-generation infrastructure — even from renewable resources — retrofitting existing buildings represents the lowest-cost option for meeting future energy needs.”
In fact, the International Energy Agency reports that buildings represent 28% of global carbon emissions with two-thirds coming from rapidly growing electricity usage, including from electric vehicle charging stations. The agency recommends increased policy intervention and financial investment in energy efficient, high performance, and sustainable buildings, in which carbon reductions are realized faster than any other contributing sector.
Beneficial Energy Efficiency Policies Continue to be Ignored
In the past 26 years, just two significant energy efficiency policies have passed the state’s legislature: in 2003, the original bill related to HB330 and in 2007, the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS), each of which garnered bipartisan support for their economic and environmental benefits. Recently however, win-win energy efficiency policies have been passed over by the General Assembly and key clean energy advocates in favor of highly politicized and less impactful (by energy volume) opportunities in solar, wind, electric vehicles, and energy storage.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to accelerate clean energy adoption in North Carolina by first reducing our state’s energy usage by 16.8% through building energy efficiency,” said Miller, citing a 2018 report from the association. “But it’s not just our legislature that needs to take action on prioritizing energy efficiency. Many clean energy advocates continue to ignore energy efficiency even though it’s North Carolina’s largest clean energy sector by revenue, companies, and jobs.”
Two years ago, North Carolina clean energy advocates passed on the opportunity to incorporate this same legislation in HB589. Advocates regarded HB589 as an “omnibus clean energy bill” despite it having no mention of energy efficiency. In the current legislative session, the same group of advocates successfully lobbied for the advancement of three clean energy bills. Those bills were combined into one by the Senate and, again, touted as “omnibus clean energy” legislation in spite of the total omission of energy efficiency policies like HB330.
“North Carolina’s clean energy advocates need to understand that energy efficiency helps meet their renewable energy and climate goals faster and cheaper. Energy efficiency is the first option to achieving all of our interests,” said Miller. “Instead of filling the leaky bucket with more water, fix the leak. It’s that simple.”
Next Steps on This Important Legislation
Despite this setback, NCBPA will continue to lead industry advocacy and lobbying efforts to enact this legislation during the 2019 and, if necessary, the 2020 session.
“The economic development opportunities as well as the environmental and many other benefits of this bill are too great to ignore,” said Miller. “This is a setback that will only compel our state’s energy efficiency industry to stronger advocacy and more decisive action and, hopefully, garner needed support from the broader clean energy community.”
Constituents are encouraged to contact their State Senator and clean energy advocacy groups and ask for their support of HB330 being heard in the Senate Rules Committee, a needed step to moving the bill forward in the current legislative session.