Cut the Kilowatts, Congress!

Tate: It's all about efficiency.
National Journal
Clare Foran
Add to Briefcase
Clare Foran
Feb. 3, 2014, 4:56 p.m.

En­ergy ef­fi­ciency seems like one of those ideas that should be a sure­fire win­ner on Cap­it­ol Hill, like pro­mot­ing nu­tri­tion for chil­dren or safety for pets. But some­times a pro­gram’s pop­ular­ity can be a han­di­cap when it comes to Con­gress — just ask Eliza­beth Tate, the new dir­ect­or of gov­ern­ment re­la­tions for the Al­li­ance to Save En­ergy.

When le­gis­la­tion to bol­ster fed­er­al en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency stand­ards was brought to the Sen­ate floor in Septem­ber, it quickly be­came mired in de­bate over un­re­lated is­sues like the Key­stone XL pipeline and the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Tate, 31, found it pain­ful to watch. “Put­ting in place bet­ter en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency policies would be an easy way to im­prove so many things,” she said. “So it was dis­ap­point­ing to see that non-ger­mane is­sues took away the op­por­tun­ity to have a dis­cus­sion about the bill.”

When the bill stalled last fall, Tate hadn’t yet star­ted work­ing at the al­li­ance, a co­ali­tion of pub­lic and private groups pro­mot­ing en­ergy pro­ductiv­ity through pub­lic policy. But she’s been fo­cused on en­ergy ef­fi­ciency for years.

She star­ted her ca­reer at the New York City law firm of Fried, Frank, Har­ris, Shriver & Jac­ob­son after gradu­at­ing from the Uni­versity of Vir­gin­ia and at­tend­ing the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania Law School, but Tate was anxious to get back to her ho­met­own of Wash­ing­ton. She landed a job with the House Sci­ence Com­mit­tee in 2010 and en­ergy is­sues ended up on her plate.

“I was do­ing back­ground re­search on en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and look­ing at wheth­er or not it was something we should be look­ing at on the com­mit­tee,” she said. “That’s when I really be­came in­ter­ested in en­ergy ef­fi­ciency.

“It’s something that res­on­ates with me be­cause it touches every as­pect of our eco­nomy. It’s a way to re­duce the need for in­creased elec­tric-gen­er­a­tion ca­pa­city, and from a con­sumer per­spect­ive it re­duces out-of-pock­et en­ergy costs.”

In 2012, Tate began work­ing on le­gis­lat­ive and reg­u­lat­ory af­fairs at the Amer­ic­an Pub­lic Gas As­so­ci­ation, a trade group rep­res­ent­ing pub­licly owned nat­ur­al-gas com­pan­ies. While Tate says she learned a lot about en­ergy is­sues at AP­GA, she jumped at the chance to work at the al­li­ance be­cause she be­lieved it would provide a plat­form to ad­vance en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency policies on a much lar­ger scale.

“AP­GA is a great or­gan­iz­a­tion and has amaz­ing people, but I de­cided to come over to the al­li­ance be­cause our work here is at the fore­front of push­ing the goal of doub­ling the na­tion’s en­ergy pro­ductiv­ity,” Tate said. “We see en­ergy pro­ductiv­ity as a ma­jor eco­nom­ic driver. It’s a way to cre­ate jobs and it’s a way to help move the coun­try to­wards en­ergy in­de­pend­ence.”

Tate ad­ded that des­pite the prob­lems the en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency bill en­countered last fall, “I’m highly op­tim­ist­ic that we’ll see move­ment on it this year.”

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