A bipartisan group of eight senators recently introduced federal legislation designed to strengthen the manufacturing industry in Ohio and elsewhere in the United States through improved energy efficiencies. Co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the “Restoring America’s Manufacturing Leadership through Energy Efficiency Act of 2009” (Act) would help manufacturers adopt energy efficient technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cut costs and protect jobs. The Act, S. 661, is also sponsored by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

As currently drafted, the Act will promote efficiencies in the manufacturing industry as a whole, in addition to promoting the development and manufacture of energy efficient technologies. Some of the financing mechanisms and programs for implementing and installing efficient technologies found in the Act as currently drafted are as follows:

Industrial Energy Efficiency Grant Program

The Act would create a revolving loan program in the United States Department of Energy (DOE) for commercial and industrial manufacturers to implement commercially available technologies or processes that significantly reduce systems energy and improve the industrial competitiveness of the United States. Priority will be given to partnerships that include a power producer or distributor. Eligible programs must be designed to accelerate the implementation of technologies that improve energy efficiency and enhance the industrial competitiveness of the United States. Among other things, successful applicants will be required to demonstrate:  

  • commitment to provide non-Federal funds;  
  • program sustainability over a 10-year period;  
  • quantity of energy savings or energy feedstock minimization; and  
  • advancement of the federal goal of 25 percent energy avoidance.  

The Act calls for funding of the program at $500 million for fiscal years 2010 through 2012.

Development of Energy Efficient Technologies for Industry

The Act would require the DOE to coordinate the Industrial Technologies Program and other federal applied technology programs to engage in manufacturing technology development. The Act also calls for the DOE to assess commercially available, cost competitive energy efficiency technologies that are not widely implemented in this country in energy intensive industries such as: steel; aluminum; forest and paper products; food processing; metal casting; glass; chemicals; and other industries determined by the DOE.

Another component of S. 661 calls for the creation of up to 10 Centers of Excellence at the highest performing industrial research and assessment centers. The Centers would coordinate with other federal research centers to provide building assessment services to manufacturers, leverage expertise and promote sustainable manufacturing practices for small and medium-sized manufacturers. The Act also would establish internship programs with federal funding for student training and allow small business loans and funding for the programs.

Innovation in Industry Grants

Another component of the Act is a competitive grant program for State-industry partnerships to develop, demonstrate and commercialize new technologies or processes for industries. Grants would be awarded to the technologies that:

  • significantly reduce energy use and energy intensive feedstocks;  
  • reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions;  
  • reduce industrial waste; and  
  • improve domestic industrial cost competitiveness.  

State-industry partnerships must match any federal funds awarded. Successful grant applicants must demonstrate that industrial applications of technologies or processes will reduce costs to industry and prevent pollution and greenhouse gas releases. Grants also can be awarded to energy efficiency improvements in material inputs, processes or waste streams to enhance the industrial competitiveness of the United States.