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There are 360,000 reasons to get the American energy efficiency economy back to work, fast. That’s one for every job lost in the efficiency sector since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic
– jobs that can be recovered if companies are able to weather the current economic slowdown and rehire these hundreds of thousands of skilled workers. A big risk for the sector is that local employers may not have the bridge capital to remain in business until the economic situation allows for putting people back to work. Policy can provide
relief and that relief is needed now. The federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, now closed to applications, and other short-term relief measures have been invaluable to small businesses as they absorbed the
initial shock of the pandemic. However, more than seven months into the crisis, the ability of these businesses to return to work varies across the country and more assistance is needed. One way to get business moving again is to boost demand for energy-efficient products and services. Organizations like the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Alliance to Save Energy, and other trade associations for the industry are working to inform the U.S. Congress on how many jobs are at risk and the measures legislators can take to protect and expand the positive effects of energy efficiency work. Many of these steps include incentivizing demand for energy efficiency and leveraging federal funding to unlock private investment. Policies that the BCSE and other advocates support include:
• Leveraging federal grant funding with private sector capital for upgrades to schools, hospitals, military bases, and other mission-critical buildings.
• Setting standards for federal building new construction and renovation aimed at meeting high efficiency or even net-zero energy goals.
• Expanding and extending incentives for efficiency investments through the tax code, such as the 25C tax credit
for homeowner energy efficiency improvements and the 179D energy-efficient commercial building tax deduction.
In addition, Congress is considering the American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA), a bipartisan piece of legislation that would be a great step forward in modernizing American energy policy and setting the energy efficiency industry on a stable growth trajectory. The AEIA includes a suite of energy efficiency measures, such as the creation of grants for energy efficiency improvements for schools and nonprofits, workforce training programs, and materials research and manufacturing investments. It would also establish a Federal Energy Management Program and expand federal performance contracting programs (where the contractor is compensated based on demonstrated cost savings from efficiency improvements).
The package also reauthorizes and expands the U.S. Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance Program.
Federal policymakers can significantly reduce the long-term uncertainty facing the American energy efficiency industry and its workforce by adopting policy support now. For the benefit of both local economies and global efforts to combat climate change, America cannot afford to let the energy efficiency sector make a gradual recovery. With a strong policy response, the American energy efficiency sector will return in full force, supporting millions
of American families and creating a more efficient and resilient built environment. 

Lisa Jacobson
President, Business Council for Sustainable Energy

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