Volume 10, Issue 8 - October 2009

Energy and Environmental News

New Study Shows Energy-Efficient Construction is Key to Green Building

Investing in the energy efficiency of buildings, such as high-performance glass and window materials, could reduce the nation’s energy consumption by 23 percent by 2020, and save the U.S. economy $1.2 trillion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.1 gigatons annually, according to a recently released study from McKinsey & Company. The study, titled “Unlocking Energy Efficiency in Today’s Economy,” examines different means by which the United States could realize greater energy efficiency in several areas—including residential construction. These include:

Public awareness, home labeling and voluntary standards. Fewer than two percent of existing U.S. homes have ratings, because most homes are evaluated and rated only at the time of construction. Therefore, according to the report, share is expected to increase through the new homes market where, for example, Energy Star® captured 17 percent of new construction in 2008 and is expected to grow to 25 percent in 2009.

Rebates and incentives. The report cited the recent passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the $1,500 tax credit for energy-efficient home improvements such as windows. But the report calls for even further rebates. “If incentive and rebate programs were to be expanded dramatically to reach all homes on a national level … The outlay would total approximately $105 billion,” reads the report.

Weatherization programs. As with the tax credit, the report says that the weatherization program can go further. “Traditionally, WAP has prioritized the lowest income homes with energy savings potential: 66 percent of homes weatherized have annual household incomes below $8,000 with 90 percent having less than $15,000, but the program could be extended to focus on energy savings more broadly and address higher income homes.

Mandatory building codes. The study suggest solution strategies to capture potential through codes involving three actions: spreading high efficiency codes to all states, raising efficiency levels in existing codes and improving code compliance.

“Increasing our nation’s energy efficiency is an economic, environmental and national security imperative that requires bold public policy,” says Rick Fedrizzi, president, chief executive officer and founding chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council, a sponsor of the study. “As Congress debates climate change legislation, these findings make an overwhelming case that we must dramatically strengthen provisions that support and scale green building.”

"As Congress debates climate change legislation, these findings make an overwhelming case that we must dramatically strengthen provisions that support and scale green building."

More Than $66 Million for Weatherization Programs Awarded in Four States
The U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced in August that the agency is providing more than $66 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand weatherization assistance programs in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut and Hawaii. The funding, along with additional funds to be disbursed after the states meet certain Recovery Act criteria, will help these states weatherize approximately 26,300 homes, which includes weatherization of doors and windows, according to a statement from the DOE.

The states received 40 percent of their total weatherization funding authorized under the Recovery Act, adding to the initial 10 percent of each funding allocation that was previously awarded for training and ramp-up activities. The remaining 50 percent of funds will be released after states meet specific reporting, oversight and accountability milestones required by the Recovery Act. The states may spend up to 20 percent of their total funds to hire and train workers, according to DOE.

DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program will be available to families making about $44,000 a year or less for a family of four. Weatherization projects allow low-income families to save money by making their homes more energy-efficient. States will spend an average of $6,500 to weatherize each home (see related story in September DWM, page 4).


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