Obama to Propose Better, Greener Commercial Buildings

Feb 3, 2011 6:00am

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:  President Obama travels to State College, Pa., today to build on his plan to “out innovate” as first proposed in his State of the Union address last week. The president will be announcing initiatives dubbed the “Better Building Initiative” to make American commercial businesses more energy-efficient in order to create jobs.

While visiting the “energy-innovation hub” at State College, which focuses research on building efficiency, the president will outline his goals: to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy-efficiency by 2020, reduce energy bills for companies and business by about $40 billion annually, and save energy by creating new incentives and challenging the private sector to serve as a catalyst for progress.

“This is going to be a high impact proposal,” a senior administration official said.  “We believe this initiative has the potential to really unlock a large amount of investment, some of which is sitting on the sidelines right now, in an area that is a win-win: it helps reduce energy costs and saves businesses money and creates jobs.”

The five components of the initiatives, meant to remove the barriers of increased energy-efficient retrofit investments are:

1. To create new and more effective tax incentives for building owners who are looking to make investments and upgrades in their buildings to save energy. The White House says the existing tax codes incentives are “outdated and they aren’t working as effectively as they could be.” The budget will propose a new tax credit that they hope will increase by ten-fold the take of the credit over the coming years.

2. To increase access to financing to commercial owners that are looking to make investments in energy retrofits. The SBA will deploy the new tools it received in the Small Business Jobs Act to help encourage energy retrofit lending for small businesses and the Department of Energy will launch a pilot program to provide loan guarantees for projects to help upgrade commercial businesses.

3. The creation of a “Race to Green” — a grant program for states and municipalities that work to “streamline their regulations to attract more retrofitted investment.”

4. An effort to train the next generation of commercial building technology workers. There will be a lunch of a “Building Construction Technology Extension Partnership” to provide training and tools for a variety of jobs and opportunities in this area.

5. The president tomorrow will “put out a call to the private sector” and challenge the nation’s CEOs, University presidents, major non-profits to come forward and make commitments to upgrade their facilities that will decrease their own energy use, “and help create jobs.”

These initiatives will appear in the president’s budget set to be released the week of February 14th but administration officials did not give cost estimates in advance of the release.

-Sunlen Miller

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