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White House rolls out building efficiency blitz that could trim energy demand

PresidentBarack Obama is expanding his Better Buildings Initiative to include three new programsand 32 more cities, schools and other partners committed to achieving 20% energysavings by 2020.

The newparticipants will expand the initiative to more than 750 organizations. Since theprogram's launch, the better buildings challenge has generated more than $10 billionin public and private sector financing commitments, saved businesses and communities$1.3 billion on their energy bills, and avoided 10 million tons of carbon emissionsand 160 trillion Btu of energy.

"Cuttingenergy and water waste not only drives carbon reductions, but creates a strongerbuilding infrastructure, improves community resilience, and spurs American job growth,"the White House said in a May 11 announcement.

The administration is launching three new better buildings "accelerators"to help improve efficiency. The first one will focus on reducing energy costs forlow to moderate income communities through expanded energy efficiency and distributedrenewable energy generation. The Clean Energy in Low Income Communities Accelerator'sfounding partners are made up of 24 states, cities, public housing authorities andother stakeholders across the country, including Atlanta, Chicago and Clevelandand the states of Colorado, Connecticut and Michigan.

The second new program is the Combined Heat and Power for ResiliencyAccelerator, which will work with states, utilities and other stakeholders to supportand expand use of combined heat and power technologies. The third initiative, calledthe Wastewater Infrastructure Accelerator, will encourage state, regional and localagencies in seven states to work toward a 30% reduction in their participating energyefficiency water resource recovery facilities and integrate at least one water resourcerecovery measure into their practices.

In addition, the Obama administration announced 32 new cities,universities, elementary schools, multifamily housing entities and manufacturerscommitted to 20% energy savings by 2020. The new members, half of which are fromthe multifamily housing sector, together represent 300 million square feet of property.

The Better Buildings Initiative is one aspect of the Obama administration'sambitious plan to slash carbon emissions from energy production and consumption.The U.S. EPA rolled out its Clean Power Plan in August 2015, which is intended toreduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. Although the rule ison hold pending litigationin a federal appeals court, Obama is pressing ahead with several other regulationsand initiatives to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The EPAin March announced plansto regulate methane emissions from existing oil and gas operations after previouslyproposing to regulate methane from new hydraulically fractured oil and gas wells,but some are skeptical the administration can finalize the existing source methanerule before Obama leaves office in early 2017.