<p>Our migration to energy that is cheap, sustainable and American is one of my top legislative priorities. My roadmap envisions a reduction in our dependence on foreign oil, marked improvements in energy efficiency and widespread innovation in green technologies. Our national security and economic prosperity depend on a smarter, cleaner and more local approach to obtaining – and using – the energy that our nation needs. </p>
Today’s Needs, Tomorrow’s Possibilities
There is cause for optimism. America’s dependence on foreign oil has decreased every year since I took office. Sustainable energy generation from wind and solar continues to grow. We have the opportunity to replace coal with much cleaner burning natural gas. But while satisfying our energy needs with more domestically-produced fossil fuels is an improvement, it doesn't relieve of us the need to think outside the box about true sustainability.
One thing is for certain – our greatest renewable resource is innovation. Forward-thinking energy policy that values conservation and renewability will reduce energy costs for families and businesses. And green, clean technology drives economic growth. Dollar for dollar, investments in a clean energy economy will create three times as many jobs as in the oil and gas industry – jobs like clean energy research, advanced manufacturing of photovoltaics and wind turbines, and the production of biodiesel refineries. In the long-term, we must ensure that American families and businesses have access to the cheapest, cleanest energy available globally, raising our standard of living and making our businesses more competitive.
Changing Our Behavior: Energy Efficiency
Of course, the cheapest, cleanest energy is the energy we never use. As our capacity to engineer better products and build more energy efficient buildings improves, we are satisfying our power needs while reducing costs and pollution.
I’ve seen firsthand how energy efficient technology can be a positive force for families. Through my work at Enterprise Community Partners, I helped lead a team that addressed the issues of poverty by constructing affordable housing units equipped with green technology, reducing utility costs while achieving efficiency. I have consistently supported initiatives to promote greater energy efficiency. I helped pass legislation to make energy-efficient retrofits more affordable for homeowners. I supported the creation of financial incentives for businesses and local governments to invest in greening their buildings and vehicle fleets. I support rigorous national fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks to help reduce our spending at the gas pump. And I sponsored legislation to make it easier for people to work from home or use public transit.
In the past, I introduced a bill called the Multifamily Housing Energy Efficiency Improvement Act, which encouraged energy efficiency in apartment buildings and condominiums by guaranteeing a small portion of mortgages used to build sustainably. More than 20 million American families live in such buildings, and the potential for energy savings is enormous.
We experienced great success pushing for this energy efficiency programs in the multifamily housing realm at the end of 2015. Legislation I sponsored that would leverage private investment into energy efficient retrofits was included in the five-year highway bill. Under my plan, a portion cost savings resulting from energy conservation would then be used to pay back private investors, while the rest of the cost savings would be passed on to HUD and the Americans it houses without a dime of risk.
Connecticut: A Model for the Nation
Connecticut is currently the fifth most energy efficient state in America, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The key to Connecticut’s success has been the state’s requirements for energy efficiency and regulatory mechanisms like electric and gas decoupling – smart, right-sized regulation.
In 2011, Connecticut became the first state in America to establish a Green Bank, the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA). A small group of my colleagues and I introduced legislation to establish a Federal Green Bank. Like CEFIA, the Federal Green Bank is a public-private institution that will attract investment in the clean energy sector by providing low-cost financing (in the form of loans, loan guarantees, insurance, debt securitizations, etc.) for a variety of clean energy/energy efficient projects. CEFIA’s success proves that a little public funding upfront can spark tremendous private investment – with just $20 million in funding, CEFIA has leveraged over $200 million in clean energy investments.
Recently, plans were finalized to close the PSEG plant in Bridgeport, Connecticut’s last coal-fired power plant and convert it to natural gas. Transitions such as this will benefit all of us by making a cleaner environment and keeping our families healthier.