Energy Efficient Buildings Would Reduce Global Warming Pollution, Save Pennsylvania Families $400 Annually

PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center

Philadelphia, PA — Pennsylvania families could save $400 every year on their electricity bills by 2030 if the government invests in the energy efficiency of our buildings today, according to a new report by PennEnvironment. Saving energy in our buildings would also help Pennsylvania’s fight against global warming, reducing global warming pollution from buildings by 27 percent—the equivalent of taking 18 million cars off the road.

“It’s time to build better,” said PennEnvironment Energy Associate, Emily Fischer. “Bold efficiency measures for buildings can cut energy use in our homes and businesses by a quarter by 2030, reducing pollution and saving consumers money.”

Right now, 40 percent of the energy used in America goes to heat, cool, and power our buildings. And because much of this energy comes from dirty and dangerous sources like coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power, this accounts for nearly half of global warming pollution in the country. Furthermore, much of this energy is wasted, flying out of leaky doors and windows. This high level of energy consumption pumps billions of tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere and costs Americans nearly $4 billion every year.
The report, Building a Better America: Saving Energy and Money with Efficiency, analyzes the benefits Pennsylvania 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 2020 and 2030.

This report is released just weeks after the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code Review and Advisory Council (RAC) voted recently to delay inclusion of these energy-saving (and money-saving) measures in the statewide building code until at least 2015. Maryland is currently enforcing the efficiency standard rejected by the RAC, and Massachusetts, Illinois, Washington DC, and a number of other states and localities are poised to adopt the stronger standards this year.
“This report shows that efficiency represents a tremendous opportunity for consumers to enjoy lower energy bills and a cleaner environment year after year,” said Fischer. “But reaching those goals will require, among other policies, regular updates to the state’s energy code. This is, unfortunately, a case of short-sighted legislators and bureaucrats denying Pennsylvania home and business owners the benefit of the latest energy-saving building techniques.”

Shari Shapiro, Esq., a LEED Accredited Professional, noted: “This study comes at a very important time for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Until 2011, Pennsylvania’s building and energy codes were some of the most efficient in the nation. This year, Pennsylvania is poised to reject new building energy codes, and miss out on 15% greater building efficiency. This study proves that good policies, including strong building codes and appliance standards, are critical for improving building energy efficiency and saving money.” Ms. Shapiro is an attorney in the Energy, Environment, and Utilities Practice at Cozen O’Connor.

Janet Milkman, Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Green Building Council, added: “This report makes a strong case that energy efficiency tools, such as benchmarking and on-bill financing, are at our fingertips. Everyone – public and private sector included – should be looking at these measures to save operating costs and improve living, working and learning environments.”

PennEnvironment 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, when new buildings should be so efficient that they can produce all the energy they need on site using renewable energy like wind and solar.
  • Investing in energy retrofits and weatherization to improve the efficiency of existing buildings 30 percent by 2030.
  • Supporting energy use disclosure and benchmarking programs, to give potential buyers and tenants more information about the energy performance of buildings.

“There are already thousands of super-efficient buildings all around the country, like the Friends Center right here in Philadelphia,” concluded Fischer. “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.”