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Utilities Need to Boost New Building Energy Efficiency

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a proverb coined by Benjamin Franklin. Perhaps, this thinking has a role in utility energy efficiency initiatives? The benefits of energy efficient buildings are clear, but less than 10% of new homes nowadays are built in that way. If utilities were more proactive in courting these structures as they are forged, they will reduce energy usage later.  

In 2019 about 73,500 were Energy Star energy efficient new homes were built.  They saved over $20.3 million in customers’ electric bills and reduced CO2 emissions by 107,303 metric tons, the equivalent of 23,209 cars, or 249,713 barrels of oil, according to the US Department of Energy. The program also offers tax credits to builders and homeowners.

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No Participation Trophy

Yet, more than 850,000 new homes were constructed, so 92.4% of new homes lack the Energy Star approval. Why isn’t the program more popular? The process requires time and money investment by participants.  

Also, awareness and interest in the program vary dramatically by state.  Arizona has the highest share of energy efficient new homes at 18,224, 54%. Maryland and the District of Columbia also surpassed the 25% of new homes meeting certification standards. Yet none were built in North Dakota, Montana or Alaska, and Hawaii managed only a single house.

Reducing energy use and carbon emissions are goals for utilities. The time may have come for local utilities to work with the Public Utilities Commission and develop programs to weave energy efficiency into more new homes. After all, pennies do eventually add up to dollars.

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Nicholas Klank's picture
Nicholas Klank on Nov 24, 2020

According to this statement from ASHRAE: https://www.ashrae.org/about/news/2020/u-s-doe-finalizes-rule-clarifying-use-of-ashrae-energy-conservation-standard

and ASHRAE's stated goal of net zero energy buildings by 2030, there is a movement to get this working in the United States at least legally and the setting of building code. How much utilities participate is another question. Let's hope nothing gets in the way of their plans. 

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