Guest Blogger Ken Alex: California’s Building Energy Efficiency Mandate

Post #3 in a Series on California Climate Policy by Ken Alex, Senior Policy Advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown

[This is the third post in a series expressing my view of why California’s actions on climate change are so important and how they will change the world. The introductory post provides an overview and some general context.]

Energy usage associated with buildings is substantial. There are different ways to calculate it, but the California Energy Commissions estimates that buildings in California account for over 25% of the total GHG emissions, including both fossil fuel consumed on-site (for example, gas or propane for heating) and emissions associated with electricity consumed in existing buildings (for example, for lighting, appliances, and cooling). So, SB 350 requires that energy efficiency in California buildings be doubled by 2030.

For new buildings, we are well on track. New residential and commercial buildings must be net zero emitters by 2025 and 2030, respectively, and California’s building codes reflect those requirements. The difficulty lies with the 14 million or so existing buildings. So far, we haven’t done as well as we would like in reducing emissions in this sector.

The California Energy Commission has adopted an extensive plan to meet the doubling requirement, so I won’t repeat it here. The key elements are:

  •   Requiring further appliance efficiency to reduce load
  •   Setting separate targets for electricity and natural gas efficiency
  •   Requiring much greater data and usage transparency and reporting
  •   Focusing on large building benchmarks and reductions initially
  •   Providing funding and incentives for residential units
  •   Fuel substitution
  •   Focusing on disadvantaged communities
  •   Improving technology

With the exception of appliance efficiency, California probably has more to learn from other jurisdictions that it has to teach at the moment. (California has a long history of leading on appliance efficiency, and continues to set the most aggressive appliance efficiency standards where it is not preempted by federal action or inaction.) The expectation is that California will double efficiency in buildings over the next twelve years, regain its leadership role and be in a position to share the knowledge widely.

Next blog: Oil and Transportation

Ken Alex is the Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, and serves as Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Jerry Brown and the Chair of the Strategic Growth Council.

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Reader Comments

4 Replies to “Guest Blogger Ken Alex: California’s Building Energy Efficiency Mandate”

  1. It is worth noting that there are significantly cost effective gains to be made in specialized efficiency improvements. For example, waste heat recovery in restaurants, bakeries and other food processing facilities is generally a less expensive first step than overall building insulation or similar general improvements. Heat management in supermarkets is another area. Of course, none of these specialized steps preclude better insulation, etc.

    Unfortunately, most of these possibilities are not particularly well known.

    This yet another area of sustainable engineering with well understood technology that has been unable to get any traction. One easy step for the state of California to pursue is to provide a forum for better dissemination of these technologies.

    That said, kudos to the state for their ongoing support of CBECC.

    1. As we approach tax time, there is something the state has been doing to actually sequester CO2, as opposed to reducing emissions (i.e. negative emissions): The state’s kelp forests are a substantial carbon sink; restoration of them requires restoring sea otters, which protect kelp from sea urchin predation (by eating them). You can donate to sea otter programs on the California state tax returns; it’s something we all “otter” do.

  2. “…..SB 350 requires that energy efficiency in California buildings be doubled by 2030…..”

    Improving energy efficiency may save money but it has no effect on global climate and does not mitigate climate change. Climate mitigation is the biggest lie/scam in California. It’s all fake mitigation, unproven, no guarantees, no measurements. Lies, deception, fraud, dishonestly, theft, corruption and more lies.

    No integrity, only more liars. Climate mitigation has never worked and never will and those who promote it don’t give a damn. California craves and deserves higher taxes, more poverty and more lies. Perhaps the climate cranks will show us a successful climate mitigation project and prove us wrong? Glad I don’t live that awful state.

    1. “Perhaps the climate cranks will show us a successful climate mitigation project and prove us wrong?”

      Our best understanding of the equilibrium climate sensitivity has given the world’s most knowledgeable scientists in the field very high confidence that mankind has been a major contributor to global warming through our emission of CO2. Asking for a measurable impact from a local climate project is an absurd way to try to counter that. Anyone with even the most basic understanding of the variability of temperature would understand that we need a global effort in order to be able to see measurable impacts.

      Further reading, though I doubt you will take the time to educate yourself:

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