A recent study by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) estimates that as many as 270,000 construction industry jobs could be created or saved if the building-related provisions in the American Clean Energy Security Act (HR 2454, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill) pass the Senate and becomes law.
The study by the AIA was conducted with the encouragement of Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and analyzes two provisions included in the House-passed Act: the State Energy and Environment Development (SEED) program and the Green Resources for Energy Efficient Neighborhoods (GREEN) program.
Provisions in the SEED program would authorize the use of cap-and-trade allowances for the energy-efficient design, construction, and/or renovation of buildings. Included in the program are the Low-Income Community Energy Efficiency program, which allows funds to be used by private, nonprofit, mission-driven community development organizations to provide financing to businesses and projects that improve energy efficiency; identify and develop alternative, renewable, and distributed energy supplies; provide technical assistance and promote job and business opportunities for low-income residents; and increase energy conservation in low-income rural and urban communities.
Additionally, the SEED program includes the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) program, which facilitates the retrofitting of existing buildings to achieve maximum cost-effective, energy-efficient improvements and significant improvements in water use and other environmental attributes.
The GREEN program provisions would provide authorized funding for the energy-efficient design, construction, and/or retrofit of buildings, including the Residential Energy Efficiency Block Grant program; the Sustainable Low-Income Community Grant program; the Alternative Energy Sources State Loan Fund, which authorizes Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide loans to states and Indian tribes to provide incentives to owners of single-family and multifamily housing, commercial properties, and public buildings to provide renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, and energy conservation improvements and features for such structures, or infrastructure related to the delivery of electricity and hot water for structures lacking such amenities; and Green Guarantees, a program to guarantee mortgages used to finance sustainable building elements for housing that is subject to the mortgage.
“We have been actively calling for investments in infrastructure that create greener buildings, vibrant communities, and a 21st century transportation network that is good for both the environment and economy,” says Christine McEntee, executive vice president and chief executive officer at AIA. “Investing in such projects will both create jobs and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions from the built environment, and we call on the Senate to pass the building-related provisions in the American Clean Energy Security Act.”
The large job creation potential per dollar invested in energy-efficient building design, construction and renovations, and the large potential for energy savings from building efficiency measures suggests that including significant building-related provisions in the final bill will help policymakers achieve the dual goals of sustainability and economic development.