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Our (Energy Efficient) Sputnik Moment

Here’s President Obama, in his State of the Union address, on the space race of the late 50’s and 60’s:

“After investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.”

We’re in our own “Sputnik Moment” now, and the Obama Administration would like to see strides in energy efficiency and clean technologies, as a part of our path to long-term global competitiveness.

Speaking at Penn State on February 3, the President introduced The Better Buildings Initiative. The program includes a set of incentives to encourage retrofits of existing commercial facilities nationwide. The goal: to increase energy efficiency 20% by 2020.

A birds-eye of some key provisions:

  • Tax breaks:  Transform the current tax deduction for commercial building upgrades to a more generous tax credit. Beyond the obvious job-creation benefits, the Administration hopes this will bring about a “ten-fold increase in commercial retrofit take up”.
  • Financing opportunities: The Department of Energy will guarantee loans for energy efficiency upgrades at hospitals, schools, and other commercial and municipal buildings.  And existing lenders will be encouraged to promote increased loan size limits for small business retrofits.
  • Speedier time lines: State and local governments that streamline regulatory hurdles and green performance standards will be rewarded with competitive “Race to Green” grants that encourage upgrades and attract private sector investment.

Photo credit: Jay Purandare

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