By Derek Newberry, Advocacy Fellow
UPDATE 3/21/17: The National USGBC created a call to action for companies and organizations to support the ENERGY STAR, Safer Choice, and WaterSense programs. If you are part of an organization that supports this, please sign the letter here. USGBC MA has signed on and encourages all other organizations concerned about energy efficiency to sign on as well!
President Trump's federal budget proposal will eliminate a number of vital energy efficiency programs from ENERGY STAR to ARPA-E. ENERGY STAR, which was started in 1992 by the EPA and DOE, has had unprecedented success in reducing consumer energy use. The program has prevented 2.7 billion metric tons GHG emissions and saved Americans $430 billion on their utility bills since the program’s inception in 1992. It has seen continuous increases in energy savings, emission reductions, and has become a paragon of sustainable branding with almost 90% of people associating the label with energy efficiency and quality. The budget cuts will leave at least 18,000 American jobless and endanger the 1.9 million American workers that work for the federally supported energy efficiency industry.
While the program may be transferred to a private company, with a transition cost of $5 million, removing the ENERGY STAR label from federal control could discredit program, will likely prevent true third-party evaluation and verification, and will reduce American prominence in the energy efficiency field around the world. It will also hinder net zero energy building and LEED compliance and expansion.
ENERGY STAR will be one of 60 other programs and 19 agencies to lose discretionary funding. Other energy-related programs to be cut include the Clean Power Plan, the International climate change programs, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, the State Energy Program, and the Rural Business and Cooperative Service’s discretionary programs.
On the other hand, as military budgets increase (by $54 billion) they will have more opportunities to invest in renewable energy technologies. In the name of efficiency, safety, and security, the DoD doubled its renewable power generation from 2011 to 2015 to 10,534 billion BTU and supported hundreds of millions in solar power contracts. The military plans to continue investing in renewables and the National Defense Authorization Act of 2007 established the DoD’s voluntary goal of 25% renewable energy consumption by 2025. The military desires to expand renewables and hybrid technologies to increase security by reducing the threat of grid attacks and current dangers of explosive fuels instead of to reduce emissions and save the planet.
However, as the current Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, has repeatedly noted his support for weaning the military off its fossil fuel dependence for national security reasons the military will likely continue on its path to clean energy and national security. Still, Trumps budget cuts to the energy programs like ARPA-E will actively hinder the expansion of new safe energy systems for the military and prevent new advancements and improvements in military technology.
Overall, the loss of ENERGY STAR will seriously weaken US energy efficiency standards and slow progress to a safe and sustainable future. Some hope can be found in expanded military clean energy use but much progress will be lost unless this budget is amended and improved to protect the American people. If you think ENERGY STAR should be protected then contact your congressional representatives and tell them to stop these cuts.