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Energy Efficiency: Untapped Potential or Just Plain Tapped Out

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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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Utah is looking to update commercial and residential building codes to be more energy efficient. “If buildings constructed today are built using older and out of date and not the most recent practices for energy conservation, then you'll see across the state a higher than necessary level of energy consumption,” said Kevin Emerson with Utah Clean Energy. “And this can result in excessive demand on our utility system.” The IEA would agree, calling energy efficiency ‘A source of enormous untapped efficiency potential.’  However, some might say energy efficiency is just an enormous expense.  

“Some codes provide minimal benefit but have high cost, while others provide significant benefit with minimal cost,” said Ross Ford, with the Utah Home Builders Association, who is eager to find a balance between costs and effectiveness. 

Utilities and state officials have made it a goal to improve energy efficiency, lower emissions and reduce energy consumption, but they are convinced their efforts alone will not be enough to reach climate goals.  “Our companies are proactively shifting to clean energy and investing in energy efficiency… But corporate action alone is insufficient to meet the scope and scale of the climate crisis and deliver benefits to all,” was written in a letter addressed to Congress from utilities and renewable energy companies.

As if answering the call, Congress has made the single biggest investment in clean energy and decarbonization with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.  It will provide $369 billion to help fight climate change.  The bill focuses on making homes and commercial buildings more energy efficient.  $1 billion will go toward making affordable housing more energy efficient and $40 billion in loan authority will go toward implementing energy efficient technologies for commercial deployment.

The bill may also have long-term impacts on real estate for buyers and sellers.  According to the 2021 Global Sustainability Study, 85 percent of the population now considers sustainability when making purchases.  “Environmental awareness and climate change is impacting what buyers are looking for in a home and how they want to live. That’s clear in this research,” said Amanda Pendleton, a home trends expert at Zillow.  According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), there has been a notable increase in homes on the market with energy-efficient features listed as selling points.  In a recent analysis, Zillow economists found that homes with those features are selling faster or for more money.  In New Jersey, homes with solar panels can sell for almost 10% more than homes without — for a median-priced home there, that equates to more than $32,000. Rental properties may also experience a shift as some states are looking to require landlords to inform tenants about the energy efficiency of units being offered.

The full affect of the bill is yet to be seen but many are optimistic.  “The historic clean energy investments this legislation will make toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions will benefit every single American, including future generations,” said EWG President Ken Cook, confident the investment will be effective.

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