Energy Efficient Buildings Would Save American Families Almost $1,300 per Year While Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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Environment America Research & Policy Center

Washington, DC – American families could save almost $1,300 every year on their energy bills by 2030 if the government invests in the energy efficiency of our buildings today, according to a new report by Environment America. Saving energy in our buildings would also help America’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“Let’s not waste any more time, any more energy, or any more money on outdated buildings,” said Rob Sargent, Environment America’s Energy Program Director. “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 National Academy of Sciences estimates that widespread use of today’s technology would increase energy efficiency by up to 30 percent in existing buildings by 2030, and with the rapid march of technological innovation and increased investment in efficiency from governments and consumers, much bigger gains are possible.

The report, ‘Building Better: How High-Efficiency Buildings Will Save Money and Reduce Global Warming’, analyzes the benefits America would see if we committed to dramatically improving the energy 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.

Making our buildings more efficient would reduce the projected energy use of America’s buildings 36 percent by 2030. That would conserve enough energy every year to power 235 million homes.

These enormous energy savings translate directly into financial savings in the form of reduced energy bills. The average family of four can expect to save almost $1,300 a year by 2030, which is 35 percent lower than what they would be paying without the improvements in building efficiency. 

“That’s the best part about making energy efficiency improvements,” said Sargent. “They pay for themselves as consumers enjoy lower energy bills and a cleaner environment year after year.”

Reduced energy consumption would also prevent the emission of 985 million tons of global warming pollution every year by 2030, which is equivalent to taking almost 180 million cars off the road.

Programs to promote more efficient buildings are popping 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. 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 America 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 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 thousands of super-efficient buildings all around the country,” concluded Sargent. “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.”