ConstructionPro Week, Volume: Construction Advisor Today - Issue: 75 - 10/01/2010

Four Organizations Take Various Steps to Improve Building Energy Efficiency

Four groups recently took steps to improve building energy performance. The groups include the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE); National Governors Association (NGA); European Union (EU); and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

Among the actions, DOE earlier this month announced the investment of $28.5 million to 12 states and territories to support energy-efficiency projects that are designed to lower energy bills for American businesses and families.


The competitively selected states will receive awards through DOE's State Energy Program (SEP) to help create a sustainable transformation in the market for energy-saving, whole-building improvements in commercial and residential buildings. The awards also are expected to help generate the necessary policy and program frameworks to support private-sector investment in energy efficiency for the long-term.

DOE estimated that existing techniques and technologies in energy-efficiency retrofitting -- such as air-tight ducts, insulation and caulking, efficient and properly installed heating and cooling systems, and building control systems -- can reduce energy use in homes and buildings by up to 40 percent and reduce energy costs by $40 billion each year. 


SEP provides financial and technical assistance to states to develop state strategies and goals to address their energy priorities. This round of competitive grants complement formula grants provided to all U.S. states and territories and fall into two categories: "Strengthening Building Retrofit Markets" will invest more than $25.5 million to assist states in developing targeted building retrofit markets in the residential and commercial sectors; and "Stimulating Energy Efficiency Action" will invest nearly $3 million to assist states in generating the policy and program frameworks to support short- and long-term investments in energy efficiency. 


In a similar effort, DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability awarded a grant to Hawaii for $180,000 to help the state's Public Utilities Commission meet the state goal of reducing electricity use by 4,300 gigawatt-hours by 2030. Hawaii will explore the relationship between its energy-efficiency portfolio standard, integrated resource plan, and clean energy scenario planning. In addition, Hawaii will identify long-range energy-savings goals by utility service territory, implement methods to measure and verify energy savings, and appropriate funding levels for energy efficiency.


The following projects were selected for awards:


Strengthening Building Retrofit Markets, $25.5 million


Multi-state group with individual awards for the following: Massachusetts, $2.587 million; Alabama, $3.013 million; Virginia, $2.887 million; and Washington, $2.588 million. Residential retrofits: This four-state partnership will retrofit at least 12,150 homes out of a target market of 300,000 homes across the four states by 2013, achieving "significant energy savings" in each home. The program plans to reach more than 75,000 homes in that market by 2021 using DOE's investment. The states will draw on national experts to implement energy modeling and benchmarking, consumer outreach, contractor management, policy development, and "innovative" financing. The objective is to create a sustainable transformation in the market for home energy improvements. The project leverages state-level experience between the awardees to share best practices in an effort to establish a model that can be applied nationally to increase home retrofits by 2013 and beyond.


Nevada: $5 million. Residential retrofits: Nevada will expand its Home Performance with Energy Star Program with the goal of retrofitting at least 5 percent of Nevada's single-family residences by 2021. The project includes an outreach and marketing strategy to motivate participation and encourage consumers to adopt energy-saving behavior. The state also will deploy incentive and financing mechanisms to overcome cost barriers, and will use streamlined delivery methods and "robust" quality assurance. The project will focus on the larger Nevada metropolitan areas of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Reno, and Sparks.


Maine: $4.539 million. Multi-family retrofits: Maine will accelerate comprehensive energy retrofits in small-to-medium multi-family apartment buildings (5-20 units) through a multi-year energy-efficiency strategy. Serving a market of more than 53,000 units, the project will seek to: reduce energy consumption by 25 percent or greater in 2 percent of eligible multi-family units per year by 2013; establish a sustainable financial model to ultimately reach 19 percent of such buildings in Maine by 2021; and expand the program model to multi-family buildings in other Northeast states.


Michigan: $4.994 million. Commercial retrofits: Michigan will create a self-sustaining financing program to achieve energy-efficiency retrofits in at least 2 percent of small retail food service businesses such as small grocery stores, convenience stores, and restaurants by 2013, and sustain this level annually thereafter. The program will be part of a portfolio of financing options available through Michigan SAVES, a nonprofit organization with seed funding from the Michigan Public Service Commission to make energy-efficiency upgrades and small-scale renewable energy systems more affordable for all types of Michigan energy consumers.


Stimulating Energy Efficiency Action, $3 million


Puerto Rico: $659,965. Puerto Rico seeks to stimulate energy efficiency by developing mechanisms to better integrate stakeholders into the decision-making process for implementing effective energy-efficiency policy in Puerto Rico. The goal of this initiative is to achieve an annual minimum target electricity savings of 1 percent. The proposed Action Plan responds to 10 goals presented in the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency Vision 2025.


Alaska: $700,000. Alaska will undertake a concerted effort to improve energy efficiency by 15 percent in the state by 2020. The state will expand current energy efficiency and conservation education and outreach efforts, collecting and tracking end-use energy data with a GIS-based database, and analyzing the current regulatory and policy framework as it relates to incentives or barriers to energy-efficiency improvements.


Texas: $500,000. Texas seeks to develop local policy and program delivery frameworks that stimulate investment in cost-effective, long-term energy-efficiency improvements. It will focus on certain areas of the state that do not have state-regulated energy-efficiency policies and programs in place.


Multi-state pair with individual awards for: Mississippi, $500,000; and Kentucky, $500,000.
These states seek to create lasting market transformation for energy efficiency in the Southeast in partnership with the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance and Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. Their goal is to make energy efficiency an integral part of the energy resource portfolios within the regions. It will support the development of policies and programs that will lead to utility investment in efficiency in the Southeast and Midwest, thereby reducing air pollution and greenhouse gases through a reduction in energy consumption.


In an email interview with Green Building Insider, Ely Jacobsohn, residential energy retrofits expert in DOE's Building Technologies Program, provided the following additional details:


GBI: What estimates, if any, can you provide about the number of buildings that are expected to benefit from these awards, the total amount of energy expected to be saved, etc.?


Jacobsohn: As a result of these awards, DOE expects that in 2013 and in the years following, over 8,300 homes and 250 food service establishments will undergo whole-building retrofits within these targeted communities. These retrofits are expected to save 238,000 MMBtu every year.  The average single family home in the U.S. consumes approximately 110 MMBtu per year. Cumulatively, by 2021, DOE expects 132,000 homes and 3,200 food service establishments, or roughly one-third of the homes or food service establishments in the targeted communities, to undergo a whole-building retrofit. These communities have over 400,000 homes and 10,700 food service establishments.


GBI: What are expected to be the most common types of techniques and technologies that will likely be used to improve energy efficiency through these awards?


Jacobsohn: Every home and business will undergo a comprehensive whole-building energy evaluation including: a thorough review of the building's insulation level; an air and duct tightness diagnostic test; a heating and cooling system health and safety and efficiency test; a review of the efficiency of the building's appliances; and interviews with the building's occupants to find out how they use the building. The owners will be given a prioritized list of recommendations to improve the building with the estimated cost and energy savings of those improvements. The retrofit will consist of a combination of improvements unique to each building and will likely include measures to tighten up the building by reducing air leakage and sealing the ducts, adding or replacing insulation, and possibly replacing the heating and cooling system and/or water heating system with a more efficient system. 


(When asked, "What other types of grants involving building energy will DOE be making anytime soon?," Jacobsohn urged readers to access the following website: and made this statement:)


Jacobsohn: DOE's Commercial Building Partnerships expects to grow in the near future.


GBI: Other comments?


Jacobsohn: The purpose of these investments is to: develop policies and programs that will become models for states, utilities, and other organizations to achieve scale in the energy efficiency market; and leverage public funds with significant private capital to ensure that the energy efficiency market is self-sustaining for years into the future. 
Gubernatorial Group Issues Report on Energy Efficiency
NGA recently issued a report indicating that 29 states and territories have updated their existing building codes within the past two years.


Eighteen states adopted mandatory residential building codes, and 16 states adopted mandatory commercial building codes that meet or exceed federally recommended standards. Of these, 14 states updated or are in the process of updating-their residential mandatory building codes to reflect the most recent model energy code (2009 International Energy Conservation Code).


California adopted a mandatory Green Building Standards Code requiring all new buildings to use environmentally advanced building practices (GBI, Jan. 21, 2010, "California Adopts Statewide Green Building Standards Code"). California adopted a provision requiring owners or operators of a building to disclose benchmarking data and a rating of the building's energy use.


Florida amended its state-developed code to incorporate energy-efficient land use and greenhouse gas reductions, requiring an increase of at least 50 percent in energy efficiency from the 2007 provisions by 2019. Iowa modified its building code to provide for training, administration, and enforcement of energy-conservation requirements.


The report, entitled "Clean and Secure State Energy Actions: 2010 Update," also found that 49 states adopted or updated policies relating to clean electricity, 47 states took action to expand their energy-efficiency measures, and 39 states developed policies and made investments to advance green economic development, largely as part of state economic recovery strategies. Efforts to advance the green economic sector within each state also emerged as a new theme across the country.


The report examines clean energy activities by all 50 states as well as the territories and commonwealths. The activities span seven categories including the following: energy efficiency; clean electricity; alternative fuels and vehicles; Lead by Example initiatives (greening state government facilities and operations); greenhouse gas emissions; clean energy research, development, and demonstration; and a new category, green economic development, which covers initiatives in the clean energy sector. Clean energy sources covered in the report include all of those defined by a state. 


ASHRAE, Others Develop Tools for Growing South America's Green Building Market
ASHRAE and certain partnering organizations earlier this month announced the development of tools to "help further the fast-growing green market in South America."


Two ASHRAE standards regarding energy efficiency and sustainability recently were translated into Spanish and Portuguese.


"South America is very progressive and aggressive when it comes to green building," ASHRAE Vice President Ross Montgomery said. "There are many green building engineering firms, contractors, and vendors who are working to deliver green building design and green technology products to the marketplace. These translations, along with the cooperation between ASHRAE and other building industry groups in the region, provide new tools to help further green building technologies."


ASHRAE's Argentina Chapter recently translated ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1-2009, Standard for the Design of High Performance, Green Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, into Spanish.     


The Argentina Chapter, along with other groups including the Asociación Argentina del Frío, are working to increase the market for green buildings in the country, according to Florentino Roson, past president of the Argentina Chapter and a green building controls expert in Argentina. "Although application of the standard is not yet mandatory in Argentina, we believe Standard 189.1 will be used as a benchmark in the design, building, and maintenance of sustainable buildings in the near future."


In addition, ASHRAE also worked with the Green Building Council Brasil on the Portuguese translation of Standard 90.1-2007, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. Officials wanted a translation of the standard for use in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating program in that country.


"We will use Standard 90.1 to guide energy-efficient practices in the Brazilian civil construction industry," said Felipe Faria, operational manager for the Green Building Council Brasil. "The standard is used by the engineers in Brazil, but the language is still a barrier for the dissemination of this knowledge. With this translation, we believe this barrier will disappear and the professionals can project buildings suitable in our current scenario of environment concern in terms of energy efficiency, low operational costs, carbon-dioxide emission reduction, indoor air quality, etc."


European Union To Emphasize Buildings in Energy-Savings Strategy
The EU intends to make buildings the center of its Energy Efficiency Action Plan, which is expected to be submitted by year's end.


To achieve the action plan's objective of achieving energy savings of 20 percent by 2020, the EU will first need to agree on what every member state and every sector will contribute toward the goal, EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger said.


"On energy efficiency, there still are a lot of goals to be met, and there are even still goals to be set," said Freya Van den Bossche, the Flemish government's minister for energy. She argued that the EU would not be able to meet its 2020 goal without taking new measures.


Such new measures could include legally binding efficiency targets for each member state in the manner of the Renewable Energy Directive. However, such binding obligations are expected to be scrapped from the draft plan as Oettinger said he would only propose binding action if the current voluntary goal proves insufficient in the next few years.


The ministers identified technological innovation and the Strategic Energy Technology Plan as key elements in becoming world leaders in technology. They also mentioned a network of "smart cities," which had already been identified in the previous draft plan as a way to pioneer new technologies.


The commissioner said his department will be doing "intensive work" over the coming months to prepare drafts for scrutiny next February at an EU summit devoted to energy.


One of these drafts will be the new energy infrastructure package, which the EU is developing and should become "more and more concrete over the next weeks," Oettinger said. He pledged to bring Europe's gas and electricity networks up to the same standard as the continent's highway and aerospace sectors.


In October 2006, the European Commission presented its Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, which comprised a large number of measures in 10 priority areas. These included energy-performance standards for energy-using products such as boilers, copiers, lighting, new energy standards for buildings, and legislation to limit carbon-dioxide emissions from cars.


A mid-term revision of the action plan was scheduled for last year. A leaked draft from the previous commission late last year indicated that the EU executive planned to impose binding energy-efficiency targets on EU member states. The plan was, however, deferred to Oettinger's energy department, which has been working on a new draft. 


A coalition of 19 environmental and social businesses and non-governmental organizations urged the energy ministers to scale up Europe's efforts to stop energy waste three-fold.


Ahead of the informal ministerial meeting, they met with Paul Magnette, Belgian minister for climate and energy policy, to express their concerns that the EU will miss its efficiency targets and ensuing benefits without high-level political commitment.


"What is needed mostly are additional and more-tailored financial schemes and delivery mechanisms, greater professional training and public information, proper implementation and enforcement of existing and future policy instruments as well as the adoption of specific binding targets," they said.


"A much higher political priority for energy-efficiency measures is essential if the EU has any chance to meet its 20 percent energy-saving target by 2020," said Tony Long, director of WWF's European Policy Office. "The result will be lower energy bills for consumers ... the generation of millions of valuable jobs, and a massive boost to new innovation in low-carbon industries and services."


"The coalition supports the effort of the Belgian presidency to raise the importance of energy efficiency and ensure decisions are taken in the council and other EU institutions that help European companies take the lead in the global race for innovative and sustainable solutions and products," said Luigi Meli, director general of CECED, which is considered the voice of the European household appliance industry. "This is an economic imperative on which we must work together immediately."


The International Union of Property Owners argued that while there is a need for a stronger European framework for energy saving, this should not put disproportionate pressure on the building sector. The group pointed out that 70 percent of European building stock is privately owned, and excessive renovation costs would be "unbearable for the majority of house owners."


"A balance has to be found between energy-consuming sectors, energy-saving requirements, the scale of the renovations foreseen, and the financial capacity of the private housing sector," the association stated. "The upcoming Energy Efficiency Action Plan should carefully assess measures to reach cost-effective gains on energy savings in the housing sector so as not to create unnecessary burdens for small and medium private building owners."


European consumers' organization BEUC stressed the need to design energy-efficiency policies that do not exclude vulnerable groups from the possibility of saving energy.


Monique Goyens, BEUC's director-general, criticized EU initiatives to promote energy consumers' interests for failing to translate into concrete benefits for customers. She argued that customers cannot take energy-saving decisions unless energy providers send them correct and comprehensible bills and set transparent prices and proper complaint handling processes.


Steve Rizer, Editor
Green Building Insider




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