Fast-tracking Building Energy Retrofits

A new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) calls for cities and states to mandate retrofits of inefficient buildings by requiring them to meet standards that cap their energy use or carbon emissions — a policy that 10 leading jurisdictions have adopted, including many in just the past 18 months.

“We have lots of good voluntary programs that help building owners improve energy efficiency, but the truth is they’re just not nearly enough when you look at the climate math,” said Steven Nadel, report co-author and executive director of ACEEE. “Most buildings today are going to be in use for decades to come. If we don’t put any limits on the carbon they’re responsible for, we’ll be locking in terrible climate impacts.”

ACEEE finds that building performance standards could greatly reduce the nearly one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions that come from buildings. If applied to two-thirds of existing buildings, these standards could reduce carbon emissions in 2050 by more than the current annual emissions from all buildings, power plants, and vehicles in New York state. Building performance standards are an effective response because policymakers set overall limits and let the building owners decide which upgrades they’ll use to implement them.

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