The Energy Independence and Security Act: Summary and Impact

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The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA, or the Act) is a federal law aimed at increasing energy efficiency as a way to strengthen energy independence and national security. Signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 19, 2007, EISA was popularized as a way to decrease energy costs for consumers.

Among other goals, the purpose of EISA is to move the U.S. toward energy independence by increasing production of clean energy, improving energy efficiency, and increasing research on, and implementation of, greenhouse gas capture and storage mechanisms. More specifically, EISA aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 9% by 2030.

With these goals in mind, EISA contains provisions that establish pilot programs, research and development initiatives, and grant programs to help fund a national commitment to energy efficiency. At the time of its enactment, it served as a continuation of the efforts made under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

What Is Energy Security?

Energy security is the connection between national security and the availability of natural resources for energy consumption. This element of national security may be threatened by political and economic instability around foreign oil supplies, increased competition for resources, natural disasters, and the effects of the climate crisis. Efforts to move the U.S. toward greater energy security include reducing the nation’s dependence on imported energy, decreasing overall energy demand, and investing in alternative energy research.

Summary of the Law

Originally named the Clean Energy Act of 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act was initially aimed at reducing subsidies received by the petroleum industry. Following opposition in the Senate, the focus of the bill shifted to promoting development of renewable energy like biofuels, improvements to energy efficiency in public buildings, and increases to automobile fuel efficiency. The following are the main areas of concern of the law:

Improved Vehicle Fuel Economy

Title I of EISA amends the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that were originally established under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA). CAFE standards were originally set for cars that were produced in 1977, but were modified over the years and remained at 27.5 miles per gallon from 1990 to 2010. Title I of EISA was the first increase in standards since 1975 and has resulted in improved fuel economy, increased consumer interest in fuel economy, and a higher market share for fuel-efficient options.

In addition to establishing several programs aimed at improving vehicle technology, title I, subtitle B created the Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle Program, which provides grants to governments, transportation authorities, and other entities to encourage the use of electric vehicles. Other programs created under subtitle B include the Advanced Battery Loan Guarantee Program and the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program. Subtitle C imposes vehicle emission requirements on federal vehicle fleets. 

Increased Production of Biofuels

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Title II of the Act amended the Clean Air Act (CAA) by expanding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. In addition, EISA defined the types of fuels that qualify: ethanol, biomass-based diesel, biogas, butanol, and other fuels derived from cellulosic biomass. It also increased long-term renewable fuel goals to 36 billion gallons and extended applicable renewable fuel volumes through 2022. Title II, subtitle A also grandfathered in volume allowances for certain existing facilities. 

Subtitles B and C of title II outline research and development efforts for biofuels and impose requirements and limitations on the infrastructure needed for biofuels. Among other requirements, subtitle B calls for grants for biofuel production research, and the study of E-85 fuel, engine durability, and biogas optimization. Subtitle C amends the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act to add requirements regarding renewable fuel. Title II, subtitle D of EISA also amends the CAA to include a waiver for fuel or fuel additives that will not cause or contribute to the failure of emission control devices or systems. 

Improved Standards for Appliance and Lighting

Pursuant to title III of the Act, manufacturers of appliances and lighting are subject to a number of new efficiency standards meant to decrease energy use as a path to national security. This portion of the Act includes two major provisions.

Subtitle A amends the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) by inserting external power supply efficiency standards, updating appliance test procedures, and adding efficiency requirements for residential boilers, furnaces, central air conditioners, heat pumps, and various home appliances. There are also provisions regarding energy conservation standards for battery chargers and standby mode.

Likewise, subtitle B amends the EPCA to include language regarding the energy efficiency of incandescent lamps. The Act also amends a portion of the United States Code to insert energy performance requirements for public buildings in the construction, maintenance, and leasing of space. 

Energy Savings in Buildings and Industry

The goal of title IV was to reduce the energy use of federal buildings by 30% by 2015. Pursuant to the Act, this involved improving energy efficiency in residential buildings (including public and assisted housing), commercial buildings, and federal buildings. It also aimed at providing grants to build energy efficient schools and promote sustainability and efficiency at other public institutions. 

Energy Savings in Government and Public Institutions

Title V of EISA details requirements for improving energy in the U.S. Capitol complex, federal agencies, and other public offices and institutions like the Department of Energy headquarters building and the United States Coast Guard. More specifically, this portion of the Act imposes requirements regarding solar panel use, E-85 fuel, and other types of energy, as well as limitations on the types of appliances permitted for use by federal agencies.  

Accelerated Research and Development

As an important element of achieving energy security, research and development is addressed in title VI of the Act. Under subtitles A, B, and C, the Act requires the creation of research and development programs to explore solar energy, geothermal energy, and marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy technologies. 

While the requirements vary for each energy source, programs must generally lead to development of more cost-effective and accessible technologies that can be used in residential and/or commercial applications. Subsection D of title VI addresses energy storage in the transportation context.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration

Carbon Capture to Fight Climate Change
Image of carbon capture technology which uses filters to remove the green house gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. IGphotography / Getty Images

Title VII of EISA contains the Department of Energy Carbon Capture and Sequestration Research, Development, and Demonstration (CCS RD&D) Act of 2007, which ultimately shifted the goals of CCS RD&D toward the development of large-scale carbon capture technology. This amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 detailed the types of research and development activities required under the program and authorized appropriations through 2012.

The CCS RD&D Act also provided for a review of carbon sequestration programs already underway with the National Academy of Sciences. What’s more, it acknowledged the importance of public health and safety and drinking water standards when developing carbon sequestration technology.   

Improved Management of Energy Policy

To get ahead of anticipated challenges related to changes in the United States’ energy policy, title VIII of the Act enumerates various improvements to energy policy management. This portion of EISA outlines the mechanics of a national media campaign to increase energy efficiency and awareness of the benefits of energy security. It also amends administration of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act, coordinates the closure of refineries prior to their removal, and provides for the assessment of data resources over a five-year period.

Title VIII also identifies prohibitions required to improve management of the U.S. energy policy under the Act. For example, the Act makes it unlawful to directly or indirectly manipulate the market for crude oil gasoline or petroleum distillates. Likewise, the Act prohibits the reporting of false information related to the wholesale price of crude oil to a federal department or agency. 

International Energy Programs

Title IX of the Energy Independence and Security Act is aimed at providing assistance to foreign countries for the promotion of efficient energy technologies. The goal of subtitle A is to create market conditions and an environment conducive to the adoption of efficient energy tech, and to promote the use of American-made clean energy technologies. 

These efforts, which apply to countries including India and China, involve assigning Foreign Commercial Service attachés to lead business development outreach and educate government officials on the benefits of energy efficiency. Subtitle B establishes the International Clean Energy Foundation, which — among other responsibilities — is charged with making grants to promote foreign projects aimed at reducing emissions. 

Green Jobs

Multi layered businessmen with green wall
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Cited as the Green Jobs Act of 2007, this portion of EISA amends the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 to include an energy efficiency and renewable energy worker training program. Most notably, the legislation includes $125 million in annual appropriations for training workers for jobs in the clean energy sector.

Programs under the Green Jobs Act include the Pathways Out of Poverty Demonstration Program, which provides grants to training entities that will serve low-income families, and the State Energy Training Partnership Program, which gives grants to states for the administration of energy efficiency workforce development programs. 

Energy Transportation and Infrastructure

This portion of the Energy Independence and Security Act amended the United States Code to create the Office of Climate Change and Environment (OCCE) under the Department of Transportation (DOT). The OCCE was to coordinate with the United States Global Change Research Program, and was charged with coordinating and implementing research, strategies, and actions of the DOT as they relate to transportation-related energy use and climate change. 

Additional subtitles within title XI include creation of the Advanced Technology Locomotive Grant Pilot Program for giving fuel efficiency grants to railroad carriers, and establishment of the Short Sea Transportation Initiative aimed at encouraging the use of inland and coastal waterways when moving commercial freight.

Small Business Energy Programs

Title XII of EISA tacks a section on to the Small Business Act that creates express loans for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency projects. It also amends the Small Business Act to reduce the fees charged for energy efficiency loans. Finally, title XII includes provisions implementing the Small Business Energy Efficiency Program (expanding upon the Energy Star for Small Business program), the Small Business Sustainability Initiative, and a pilot program encouraging small businesses to offer telecommuting options to employees — among other programs.  

Smart Grid

Smart Grid conceptual abstract
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A smart grid is an electricity grid that includes operation and energy features like advanced meters, load control switches and smart appliances to improve efficiency, renewable energy resources, and fiber broadband to help monitor grid systems. The Energy Independence and Security Act commits the U.S. government to modernizing the nation’s electricity infrastructure to better meet future demand. 

This involved establishment of a Smart Grid Task Force, development of a smart grid technology research and development program, and coordination of a framework for operating smart grid devices. 

Pool and Spa Safety

Often cited as the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, title XIV of EISA was added in response to the drowning death of Virginia Graeme Baker when she was trapped under water by the suction of a spa drain. 

In addition to imposing drain cover standards and equipment requirements in public pools, title XIV created the State Swimming Pool Safety Grant Program, whereby states can receive funds to train safety personnel and educate pool construction companies, owners, and operators about equipment requirements and other drowning prevention methods. 

EISA Current Status

Since the enactment of the Energy Independence and Security Act, the United States has made huge strides in improving energy efficiency nationwide. In fact, it's estimated that by 2030, changes implemented in EISA will be responsible for a 15% reduction in daily oil use (an almost 3 million barrel decrease per day), an 8% reduction in annual projected energy use (8 quadrillion Btu), and a 10% reduction in annual carbon dioxide emissions (50 million tons). 

Amendments to EISA

In July 2019, a bill was introduced to amend the Energy Independence and Security Act to reauthorize the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program through fiscal year 2025. The bill further revises the program by expanding permissible uses of grant funds to include energy distribution technologies.

In September of 2019, the Department of Energy released two rules to roll back specialty light bulb standards established under EISA. These standards, which were scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020, were aimed at improving the energy efficiency of light bulbs. It was estimated at the time that the final determination could result in $14 billion in extra annual energy bills for U.S. consumers. In light of this uncertainty, six states (Vermont, California, Washington, Nevada, Hawaii, and Colorado) passed legislation to implement their own efficient lighting standards before the January 1 deadline.

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