U.S. Chamber Official Outlines Clean Energy Jobs Plan Before Congress

Apr 15, 2011

Bill Kovacs, Senior VP , Environment, Technology, and Regulatory Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Congress can create tens of thousands of clean energy and energy efficiency jobs without spending any federal funds by streamlining the broken permitting process for new energy projects and better utilizing a government program to retrofit federal buildings with energy efficient equipment, says Bill Kovacs, U.S. Chamber senior vice president of Environment, Technology, and Regulatory Affairs.

“If our great nation is going to begin creating jobs at a faster rate, we must get back in the business of building things. We also need to figure out how to do it without years and years of permit delays related to our complex regulatory process that allows almost anyone to impede or stop any energy project,” Kovacs told the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight during testimony on April 13.

Kovacs expressed disappointment that the president’s “Better Buildings Initiative,” does not take advantage of the Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) program to promote energy efficiency and create tens of thousands of new jobs. Under the ESPC program, an Energy Service Company (ESCO) installs new energy efficient equipment at federal facilities at no upfront cost to the government. Federal agencies pay off the investment over time through savings on utility costs, and the private sector contractors guarantee the savings. To date, only a small percentage of the $80 billion ceiling on the contracts has been spent.

“It is puzzling that the nation’s largest energy user—the federal government—cannot find ways to use this program more effectively,” said Kovacs. “At a time when there is a critical need for reduced government spending, ensuring the availability of mechanisms to save energy in federal buildings at no upfront cost to the government is good policy. If used to their full potential, ESPCs can create tens of thousands of full-time jobs.”

A recent analysis by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that reaching the $80 billion mark over 15 years could result in $21 billion in net savings to the government while creating more than 40,000 new jobs annually for a decade.  The energy savings from this program would be the equivalent of taking approximately 10 million cars permanently off the road.  To maximize the benefits of the ESPC program, the Chamber recommends the following actions:

  • Issuance of a presidential Executive Order directing agencies to use ESPCs for the majority of their energy projects and energy-related infrastructure acquisitions.  
  • Expanded training for federal ESPC employees and agency officials responsible for managing ESPC programs.  
  • Congressional oversight and reporting. Agencies should be required to make periodic reports to Congress as to the progress they are making in achieving the $80 billion ESPC target.

Kovacs also called on Congress to enact legislation to streamline the siting and permitting process for new energy projects. He highlighted the Chamber’s recent Project No Project initiative, a first-of-its-kind economic study identifying 351 stalled energy projects nationwide, which, if allowed to move forward, would provide a $1.1 trillion boost in GDP and 1.9 million new jobs a year during the construction phase alone. The findings are detailed on the user-friendly site www.projectnoproject.com, which features an in-depth breakdown of every stalled project.

“Failure to find a path forward that will allow projects to be built in a reasonable timeframe should not be acceptable,” said Kovacs. “If we fail to take on this challenge, we could find ourselves faced with an endless litany of project failures, loss of investor confidence, fewer jobs created than we have the potential to create, and an inability to provide this nation with the energy it needs.”

A day ahead of his testimony, Kovacs provided a video preview of his main points for the ChamberPost blog. Watch the video here.

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