Two new developments in Washington may give a boost to solar energy and energy-efficient building retrofits. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent, has enlisted New Mexico Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Arkansas Republican Sen. John Boozman as co-sponsors of the “10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2011” (S. 1108) (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112s1108is/content-detail.html). The bill aims to significantly reduce the cost of permitting related to the installation of rooftop solar power systems by rewarding communities that streamline cumbersome solar energy permitting processes.
In another green policy development, the US Green Building Council has gained strong support for a revamping of federal tax incentives related to green building retrofits. The USGBC and more than 85 groups representing building owners, contractors, architects, and other stakeholders in the built environment, have thrown their support behind a plan to modify the tax deduction for energy-efficient commercial facilities. The proposal would:
• Measure energy savings compared to the existing building baseline, rather than requiring existing buildings to meet and exceed the requirements of the energy code for new construction.
• Link the amount of the incentive to energy savings achieved.
• Allow the building owner to claim 60% of the incentive at the time the energy efficiency measures are put into service, and the remaining 40% of the incentive after two years of demonstrating the expected savings have occurred.
“This unprecedented level of accountability will encourage the proper operations and maintenance in high performance buildings, an Achilles heel of efficient designs that depend on the operators to live up to their full potential,” according to the USGBC.