With the US elections finally wrapping up, most in the green building and renewable energy sectors of America are breathing a sigh of relief. While there are many obstacles yet to tackle to get the US economy back on track, with the re-election of President Obama, things are looking more stable than they would have been under a republican government.
Obama has already done a lot to advance the cause of green house plans and sustainable commercial buildings in the US. Unlike the Bush administration, Obama has taken action on a number of fronts. He created job training in cleantech for displaced workers, including $150 million for Pathways Out of Poverty, a green jobs training grant. He also allocated tens of billions of dollars through the economic stimulus package for green retrofits of federal buildings.
Perhaps one of the biggest boons for green was the support renewable energy received from the Obama administration, which resulted in a 39% increase in wind power and a national renewable portfolio standard which will aim to have 15% renewables in the grid in the coming years. In all, $60 billion has been invested in renewable and clean energy tax incentives, $2 billion of which went to solar power.
The good news is that President Obama’s new 2013 budget (if approved) will do even more to support green buildings and renewables. Here are some of the green building benefits to come out of that proposed budget:
- $1.2 billion for energy efficiency
- $310 million for a SunShot Initiative to lower costs for solar
- $65 million for geothermal energy
- $2.3 billion for research into energy efficiency (among other green projects)
For those looking to renewables, there’s still good news there as well: renewable energy tax credits for things like solar (electric and thermal), geothermal, and wind run through 2016. The President will also likely continue to use Executive Orders and administrative mandates to pursue the greening of the Department of Defense, encouraging green purchasing policies, and creating a greener energy infrastructure.
But definitely the biggest opportunities for receiving support in the green building industry in the coming years will be in the area of energy efficiency and retrofits. Not only will these types of programs garner more bi-partisan support than other measures, energy efficiency improvements actually hold the best chance of shrinking the carbon footprint of homes and buildings in America, too. Though a Home Star bill that would have provided up to $3,000 in energy efficiency rebates for homeowners has been tried several times, it has yet to pass due to being connected with other failed bills. Hopefully the coming years will see something like that go through, which will further boost the resiliency of the green building sector.
So mostly good news in the coming years for green buildings. Whether we finally see solar on the White House is another debate entirely.