• Energy Efficiency
  • Energy Policy
  • GHG emissions
  • Commercial Building Energy Efficiency

Promoting Energy Efficiency in Commercial and Residential Buildings

Rafael Go
Oct 10, 2019

Smart Buildings

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released a new report in September on how increased energy efficiency could cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in half by 2050. The report outlines 11 policy recommendations that span multiple pathways and encompass various sectors (including aviation, freight, industrials, utilities, and commercial buildings), providing specific steps to address the inherent energy inefficiencies associated with each. In addition, the report breaks down the effects of each specific policy recommendation. 

Of the 11 pathways, almost half are related to commercial and residential buildings. The report identifies net zero energy buildings and homes, appliance and equipment efficiency, home and building retrofits, smart buildings and homes, and electrification of space and water heating as potential avenues to improve energy efficiency. Specific policy recommendations include upgrades to building codes, equipment efficiency standards, and ENERGY STAR specifications, as well as incentivizing the building of retrofits. These policy solutions related to buildings could deliver over 40% of the total energy savings identified in the report. 

Individuals and Building Managers Will Drive Recommended Policies

The report's results further reinforce the importance of integrating energy efficiency solutions in commercial and residential buildings. Buildings account for over 40% of energy consumption in the US and produce over one-third of GHG emissions. By outlining these policy recommendations, the report provides potential public sector-driven pathways to increase energy efficiency. However, given the current political climate and appetite for energy efficiency regulations, these policies are most likely to be driven at the state level rather than the federal level, resulting in a piecemeal effort. States like New York and Colorado have begun to make strides in setting energy efficiency standards in buildings. However, for most of the country, the choice to retrofit or install more energy efficient measures into buildings is still up to the discretion of individual residents and building managers. 

Education in the Absence of Standards

In the absence of updated standards, one possible recourse is to ensure residents and building managers have the necessary tools and resources to make easy decisions on energy efficiency in their buildings. Educating these residents and managers on the financial and environmental benefits of increasing energy efficiency and providing steps for redress could go a long way in boosting participation rates. To learn more about broader trends in smart buildings technologies, read Guidehouse Insights’ recently published reports, Intelligent Buildings Overview and Home Energy Management Overview