Congress Silently Axes Extension of Successful Conservation Program

By Published On: October 11, 2003

A popular federal program that has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in energy-efficiency savings at federal facilities in California met its maker this week after a provision extending its life was cut from a congressional resolution passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate. ?We got a lot of assurances, including from the White House, that it was a go,? said a dismayed Jennifer Schafer, who represents private energy-efficiency contractors including Sempra Solutions, Honeywell, and Johnson Controls. Schafer said she did not want to point fingers, adding that the last-minute deletion of the provision continuing the federal conservation program was ?apparently a mistake.? A wide range of energy-efficiency and renewables projects have been implemented at military bases and other federal facilities in California and around the U.S. under a private-public partnership that ended October 1 because it was not reauthorized. The program is estimated to have generated $100 million in conservation savings in California alone since the mid-1990s. The fate of the federal energy-savings program, created in 1992 with bipartisan support, has been tangled up with the controversial federal energy bill now before a House-Senate conference committee. Schafer and the group she represents, the Federal Performance Contracting Coalition, held little hope that an energy bill would be passed before the efficiency venture expired and explored various stopgap vehicles to extend the program. They worked out a provision that would have avoided a program lapse, but it was excised late on September 25 prior to the resolution?s passage in the Senate. Schafer said the coalition is working on adding language to the energy bill clarifying that existing contracts for conservation and renewables projects at federal facilities would not have to be rebid but would pick up from where they left off. Given the last round of ?assurances,? she is wary but hopeful that the conservation program will be revived.

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