Educating Capitol Hill on Real-Time Energy Efficiency

February 1, 2010

When 2009 dawned, no one on Capitol Hill knew much (if anything) about mechanical insulation. The National Insulation Association (NIA) and its Foundation for Education, Training, and Industry Advancement had been working on a way to change that for several months through the Mechanical Insulation Marketing Initiative (MIMI). Along with the public relations firm GolinHarris and the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (the International), NIA worked diligently all through 2009 to educate lawmakers about the benefits of mechanical insulation.

That hard work paid off. In 2009, mechanical insulation:

  1. found a champion in the House of Representatives, Rep. Deborah Halvorson (D-IL)
  2. was the subject of a resolution on the House floor encouraging energy-efficient and environment-friendly building and facility certification programs to incorporate the use of mechanical insulation as part of their standards and ratings system
  3. received $500,000 in the Department of Energy’s budget for an educational/awareness campaign
  4. was featured in tax incentive legislation.

Letter writing campaigns by NIA and the International members and visits on Capitol Hill by NIA staff, Board members, and Committee Chairs, along with representatives of the International, all played a role in these successes by helping educate lawmakers about mechanical insulation’s short payback period, attractive energy cost savings, and immediate (real time) availability.

A Year of Change

In February 2009, NIA launched its campaign to win new support for and increase awareness of mechanical insulation and to help secure federal funding for continued and expanded association educational and awareness initiatives. Speed was imperative to take advantage of the money for energy efficiency improvements included in the recently enacted stimulus package.

To help in the educational effort, NIA developed some statistics with the help of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program Save Energy Now initiative. With its ability to save $4.8 billion in energy costs and 43 million metric tons of CO2 emissions while creating or preserving 89,000 sustainable, green jobs, mechanical insulation is an impressive candidate for energy efficiency dollars. This data was used in the effort to get mechanical insulation included in the climate change legislation the House passed in June 2009.

NIA members and International Union members sent over 19,000 letters to Capitol Hill and thousands more to governors and state energy directors in this early phase of the campaign. This support helped Rep. Halvorson get NIA’s proposal to create a 5-year, $17.5 million (total) Industrial Energy Efficiency Education and Training Initiative included in the House climate change bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454). This initiative would build awareness of the value of mechanical insulation nationwide.

NIA also began working with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Labor, leading to a meeting with DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Cathy Zoi on September 11, 2009. In October, NIA received word that $500,000 for a mechanical insulation educational and awareness campaign had been included in the DOE’s FY2010 budget. Discussions with DOE on shaping this educational outreach effort began immediately.

Representatives of NIA and the International were also able to visit several governors’ and state energy directors’ offices in 2009, including those in Montana, New Jersey, Kentucky, Ohio, Washington, and West Virginia. Also, NIA gave a presentation on mechanical insulation opportunities at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Energy Officials in September 2009.

As part of NIA’s annual Committee Days program, NIA held its first-ever Capitol Hill Convergence. On November 6, 16 of NIA’s Board members, committee chairmen, past presidents, and NIA staff met with 34 House and Senate offices to educate congressional staff about the energy efficiency benefits of mechanical insulation and to promote tax legislation that would encourage businesses to retrofit, maintain, and install mechanical insulation. By the end of 2009, representatives of NIA and the International had met with nearly 100 House and Senate congressional offices.

On December 1, NIA and International representatives met with DOE key staff and presented details on a proposal to implement a nationwide mechanical insulation education and awareness campaign.

NIA and the International also opened another front by working to create a tax incentive for the installation and maintenance of mechanical insulation, working with Congress to draft legislative language. Then, on December 11, Rep. Halvorson introduced H.R. 4296, the Mechanical Insulation Installation Incentive Act, and a letter-writing campaign to support the tax deduction began. At the time this article was written, more than 43,000 letters had been sent.

The tax deduction in H.R. 4296 would provide facility owners an incentive to increase the use or maintenance of mechanical insulation by lowering their tax expense in the fiscal year in which the mechanical insulation was put in service or maintenance completed. If the property owner is not subject to U.S. income tax, the tax deduction would transfer to the primary contractor, providing an incentive for energy efficiency regardless of the owner’s tax status.

A Year of Opportunity

Mechanical insulation’s prospects are bright for 2010. Armed with legislative success and hard data, NIA and the International continue to meet with Representatives and Senators and work with DOE on a national educational campaign.

Among NIA and the International’s goals for 2010:

  • Get the House to pass H.R. 4296, The Mechanical Insulation Installation Incentive Act
  • Find a Senator to champion mechanical insulation
  • Get a mechanical insulation tax credit into a Senate bill
  • Continue educating lawmakers about the benefits of mechanical insulation
  • Work with the DOE on the best use of the secured $500,000 for mechanical insulation education awareness initiatives in 2010
  • Work with ASHRAE, USGBC, and other standard and code bodies to ensure mechanical insulation is properly represented
  • Work with allied organizations on programs that benefit and further our initiatives for mechanical insulation.

NIA needs your help to accomplish these goals. Please visit for an overview and the text of H.R. 4296, sample letters, and contact information for your Representative and Senators, your state’s energy director, and others who need to hear from you about how valuable mechanical insulation is in your energy efficiency efforts.