Thought Leadership

Shifting Energy Efficiency Markets into High Gear


By Lindsey Hawes

February 22, 2017

Co-authored by Hanna Grene

California’s roadmap to accelerate efficiency in existing buildings

While California was an early leader in prioritizing energy efficiency for new buildings, only since 2009 has the state directed the same focus toward existing buildings with the passing of Assembly Bill (AB) 758. As part of AB 758 implementation, the California Energy Commission recently released a draft Existing Building Energy Efficiency Action Plan that sets the stage for a doubling of energy savings – equivalent to a 17% reduction in statewide building energy use over the next ten years.

Overview of AB 758 action plan

The Energy Commission provides a strong vision with a clear map of activities to support increased efficiency in single-family, multifamily, commercial and public sector buildings. The plan establishes five ten-year goals, listed here with a few strategies.

  • Proactive and informed government leadership in energy efficiency – A competitive challenge to fund projects, policies and programs that help local jurisdictions lead by example.
  • Data drives informed decisions – Transition statewide benchmarking policies to mandatory time-certain benchmarking for all nonresidential buildings above 50,000 gross square feet.
  • Building industry delivers innovation and performance – Workforce education and training to achieve high-performance buildings ahead of 2020 and 2030 zero net energy mandates.
  • Californians recognize and benefit from the value of efficiency upgrades – Include energy performance in both residential and nonresidential property valuations and in all real estate transactions.
  • Solutions are accessible and affordable for all Californians – Facilitate long-term finance mechanisms for energy efficiency and provide deeper subsidies to low-income households.

The action plan addresses the importance of coordination across agencies to maximize and learn from complementary efforts. It calls for establishment of an Existing Building Efficiency Collaborative, with members from the Energy Commission, Public Utilities Commission, Integrated Systems Operator, Air Resources Board and additional state agencies leading the energy efficiency charge.

CSE supports the action plan

Many stakeholders in both the public and private sectors have been working to overcome barriers to energy efficiency for many years and have research and deep experience to support the implementation of the strategies described in the action plan. We offer the following resources and strategies to move the Energy Commission’s strategies forward and jump-start activities in alignment with the action plan.

  • Support and assist local government efforts to adopt time-certain benchmarking and disclosure ordinances for nonresidential buildings.
  • Help local governments lead with innovative programs and streamlined permitting for energy efficiency measures.
  • Provide local building departments with training and on-the-job assistance with energy code and CALGreen compliance, including best practices for residential HVAC alterations.
  • Train the workforce to provide high-quality, high-performance building upgrades.
  • Map the way to zero net energy through an online ZNE Roadmap that steers cities and counties toward bigger, bolder strategies.
  • Recommend and support the development of a centralized statewide online permitting portal.
  • Educate, motivate and activate California citizens through Energy Upgrade California, the state’s customer-focused energy education platform.

Critical role for stakeholders

CSE is just one of many active stakeholders. Local governments, industry associations, utilities, service providers and think tanks have significant track records working on research related to and implementation of the strategies identified in the Existing Building Energy Efficiency Action Plan.

Now is the time to share these collective resources and work together to ensure that valuable research is leveraged – and existing efforts are not duplicated — to position the strategies within the action plan for expeditious implementation. The next opportunity for stakeholder engagement is a public workshop at the Energy Commission on April 7, 2015. Comments on the plan will be accepted through April 21, 2015.

CSE looks forward to participating in the open stakeholder process and to working with interested parties to identify new methods and tools to transform California’s existing buildings into ones that exist efficiently.

Lindsey Hawes

Read more by Lindsey Hawes