As hundreds of restaurateurs travel to Washington, D.C. this week for the National Restaurant Association’s 2010 Public Affairs Conference, advocating for the passage of energy-saving Building Star legislation will be a top priority.

The Building Star Energy Efficiency Rebate Act of 2010, S. 3079, was introduced by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) to establish tax incentives that encourage energy savings. The legislation would promote the installation of energy-efficient renovations in commercial buildings such as restaurants by offering rebates and financing incentives for building owners to upgrade their property’s energy efficiency.

Building Star was developed by Rebuilding America, a coalition that includes the National Restaurant Association and more than 80 other groups.

“The National Restaurant Association supports Building Star because reducing energy use is not only good for the environment, it’s good for the bottom-line. There is tremendous capacity in our retail and commercial space to reduce energy consumption. If restaurateurs can save money by reducing energy costs, they have more resources to create jobs,” says Scott DeFife, executive vice president for policy and government affairs for the Association. “This is one of the key issues that our members will be advocating for this week when hundreds of our members from across the country head to Capitol Hill during the Association’s Public Affairs Conference.”

Restaurateurs who own their own buildings could participate directly. Restaurateurs who do not own their space could benefit through energy audit rebates, as well as rebates on HVAC work, new exhaust hoods and fans, window film and efficient lighting installation, and through state energy efficiency programs for commercial operators.

As part of the legislation, restaurants would benefit from reduced energy bills and operating costs that result from an energy efficiency retrofit, and the technology-specific rebates in Building Star are based on proven rebate programs already in place. Benefits are established in the legislation, so Building Star could be implemented quickly.

National Restaurant Association research shows that more than one-third of restaurant owners and operators want to make energy efficient improvements this year. Reducing restaurants’ energy use is a key component of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve sustainability initiative. The Association is set to launch a recognition program called Greener Restaurants later this year, that will recognize restaurant operators who are taking action to save energy and water, among other sustainable business practices.

The National Restaurant Association’s 2010 Public Affairs Conference will be held April 14-16. For more information, visit the Web site.