Energy Efficient Buildings Would Save California Families More Than $800 Per Year, While Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Environment California Research & Policy Center

Sacramento – California families could save $822 every year on their energy bills by 2030 if the government invests in energy efficient buildings today, according to a new report by Environment California.  Energy efficiency in our buildings would also help California’s fight against global warming by reducing projected greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 37 percent.
“Let’s not waste any more time, any more energy, or any more money on outdated buildings,” said Environment California State Field Organizer Morgan Velarde.  “We need to invest in efficiency today so we can start building a better tomorrow.”
America’s buildings consume more than 40 percent of our total energy, which amounts to almost 10 percent of all the energy used in the world.  Much of this energy is wasted due to inadequate insulation, inefficient heating and cooling systems, and poor construction techniques.
The report, Building Better: How High-Efficiency Buildings Will Save Money and Reduce Global Warming, analyzes the benefits California would see if we committed to dramatically improving the efficiency of new and existing buildings.  The report uses government data to estimate reduced energy consumption, decreased fossil fuel use, money saved on energy bills, and global warming pollution prevented in 2030 and 2050.
Though California currently has the greenest building codes in the country, the potential for even greater savings still remain.  Further incentives for efficiency retrofits and increasing standards for new construction could save California businesses almost $500 per worker by 2050. California ranks third in the nation for the highest potential savings in per-worker commercial spending. 
Numerous companies in the Sacramento are building highly efficient buildings today.  One business, Hot Italian restaurant, is finding significant savings from their energy efficient buildings. 
“It is simply good design and good business to make beautiful buildings that are both cost and energy efficient.” said Hot Italian architect, Edward Mojica of Mojica Architecture Studio. “The building industry can no longer afford to pass up these initial investments in buildings because the long term costs are just too great.”
Making our buildings more efficient would reduce the projected energy use of California’s buildings 37 percent by 2030.  That would conserve enough energy every year to power 19 million homes.
“Today’s report by Environment California complements the intent behind the policy of AB 2679,” said Assemblymember Eng.  “AB 2679 sets bold energy and water efficiency standards for existing public buildings through a benchmark system to reach the goal of a zero net energy standard by 2030 that will yield both economic and environmental benefits, as encouraged through the report.”
The benefits of energy efficiency do not stop with financial gains.  By increasing energy efficiency standards for new buildings and improving existing structures, California can reduce its energy consumption enough to prevent the emission of 47.9 million tons of global warming pollution every year by 2030, which is equivalent to taking 8.7 million cars off the road.
Programs to promote more efficient buildings are ramping up all over the country.  More than a dozen states have updated their building codes since the start of 2009, and more than 20 others are currently in the process of doing so.  Earlier this year, the California Energy Commission updated the state’s building codes to require greater efficiency. Nationally, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $16 billion for efficiency-boosting retrofit and weatherization programs, and Congress is now considering major initiatives like HOME STAR and Building STAR that would provide financial incentives for efficiency improvements in residential and commercial buildings.
Environment California is calling for policies that will help us reach our efficiency goals, including:
•         Steady improvements to building codes over time so that all new buildings are increasingly efficient, culminating in a zero net energy standard for residential buildings by 2020 and for all others by 2030. This means that in 20 years, every new building that is constructed will be so efficient that it can produce all the power it needs right onsite from renewable sources like solar panels or wind turbines.
•         Investing in energy retrofits and weatherization to improve the efficiency of existing buildings 30 percent by 2030.
•         Supporting innovative financing mechanisms that will unleash public and private investment in building efficiency.
“There are already hundreds of super-efficient buildings all around the state,” concluded Velarde.  “Most buildings last for decades, so investing in energy efficiency locks in savings for years to come – and builds a strong foundation for the future of our environment and our economy.
Environment California is a statewide, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water, and open spaces.