The Senate has started floor debate on a sweeping energy bill, which, if enacted, would be the first comprehensive energy legislation to make it through Congress since 2007.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), seeks to increase buildings’ energy efficiency, modernize the electric grid and expedite exports of liquefied natural gas. The measure, also backed by the energy panel’s top Democrat, Maria Cantwell (Wash.), cleared the committee in July.

Votes are expected on several amendments and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Jan. 27 that he hoped to complete the chamber's action on the bill sometime during the first week of February.

Building groups praise some of the efficiency provisions, including lengthening, to 25 years from 10, federal agency energy-saving performance contracts. The U.S. Green Building Council says this would lead to better upgrades to government buildings.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a different bill in September. President Obama has threatened to veto the House version because he believes it does too little to address climate change.