Building an energy-efficient America

Environment Colorado

Denver, CO—According to a new white paper released today by Environment Colorado the country’s energy consumption could be cut by 11 percent by 2020 through simple building efficiency measures. “Building an Energy-Efficient America: Zero Energy and High Efficiency Buildings” describes the many opportunities for increasing energy efficiency in buildings and makes recommendations for what local, state and federal officials can do to secure huge energy savings in new and existing buildings.
Keith Hay, Energy Advocate of Environment Colorado, said, “Today our buildings that are a double-bogey: they waste energy and opportunity. We need to move American homes and business toward par by building more efficiency homes with on-site renewable energy will cut the energy score, and cut global warming pollution.”

Nearly half of the energy we use in the United States—10 percent of the energy in the world—is consumed powering the buildings in which we live and work and much, if not most of that energy is wasted.  “Building an Energy-Efficient America” describes policy steps that states and the federal government can take to significantly cut that waste and realize our technological potential for energy efficiency:

  • Building energy codes should be improved and enforced. National model codes should be 30 percent more efficient by 2010 and state codes should match or exceed the model codes.
  • Federal, state, and local governments should adopt policies that encourage building far beyond code and retrofitting existing buildings for increased efficiency.
  • Policies should be designed to encourage on-site renewable power.
  • Political leaders should set the goal for all new buildings to be zero net energy by 2030.

“This is a great example of the direction that we should be going to cut costs and increase national security,” said Sen. Moe Keller (D-Arvada). Energy efficiency and conservation are huge untapped strategies that keep dollars in the pockets of citizens and promote economic independence for our country.” 

The energy savings that can be achieved through these cost-effective policies cannot be understated.  Key findings in the paper include:

  • By 2020 we could reduce annual United States energy consumption by 11 percent through simple building efficiency measures such as more efficient lighting, water heating, and appliances, and by designing new buildings to be more energy efficient.
  • Strong energy codes alone, adopted nationally and adequately enforced, would reduce national energy consumption by 2 percent by 2030.
  • One quad of energy, roughly 1% of our nation’s total consumption, gained through building efficiency would cost $42.1 billion. This much energy would cost three times as much gained through new coal plants, and, at least five times as much through new nuclear plants.

In September a major opportunity will present itself, when officials from towns and cities across the country come together to update the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) – the national model code most states use to shape how new homes are constructed.  The officials could vote to improve the model code to require new homes to be 30 percent more energy efficient.   

“Buildings are among the worst polluters out there,” said Rep. Mary Hodge (D-Brighton). “In this day and age, with heightened awareness of the growing cost of energy and the devastating impacts of global warming, we must take every step possible to make sure we save where we can.  And this report provides logical steps to do just that.”

Environment Colorado calls on decision makers to make a commitment to do everything it will take to move our country forward, past the old, inefficient and wasteful, and put ourselves on track to make all new buildings zero-energy by 2030.  In the short term, this means passing the 30 Percent Solution, renewing the energy tax credits, and continuing to invest in greening state government. 

“Gas and electricity bills could be obsolete by the middle of this century, and we can start by taking advantage of the large savings that are already at our fingertips,” said Doug Seiter, Past President of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society.  “We need to make a commitment and work towards that vision of clean, efficient, homegrown energy by making the most of the opportunities in front of us right now.”