In the Toolkit --


  • Guide to the Toolkit
  • Leagues in Action
  • I. Choosing a Role for Your League

    II. Grassroots Action Priorities

  • Climate Action
  • Price on Carbon
  • Our Children's Trust
  • Energy Efficient Buildings
  • Renewable Energy
  • Adapting to Climate Change
  • III. Basics of Climate Change

    IV. Engaging Individuals

  • Communicating About Climate Change
  • Preparing for a Meeting on Climate Change
  • Engaging Groups in Your Community
  • V. Promoting Public Policy

  • Community Action Models
  • Organizing For Community Action
  • Tips for Building Grassroots Support
  • League Action on Climate Change
  • International Action
  • VI. Resources


    Strategies for Energy Savings in Buildings, a toolkit from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), discusses a variety of policies available to local governments to improve the efficiency of new and existing buildings. .

    Building energy codes are one of the most effective tools for reducing energy consumption in buildings. The codes set minimum requirements for energy-efficient design and construction of the building's envelope (its outer shell) as well as its systems and built-in equipment. They apply to nearly all new construction, additions, and renovations. Energy Codes 101 from the Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP) provides a helpful introduction.

    There are two primary national model energy standards that states and local jurisdictions may adopt --

    The BCAP website provides a variety of resouces aimed at promoting building energy codes, including information about the status of energy code adoption in each state. Code adoption is just the first step, however; implementation, compliance, and enforcement are needed to realize the full benefits of the code. Gaps in training and manpower shortages can sometimes be a hinderance.

    Green building or "beyond-code" programs promote the use of sustainable practices and materials that minimize the impact of the building on the environment and on human health. These programs exceed the IECC/ASHRAE 90.1 minimum requirements and can be either voluntary or mandatory. They typically address such elements as energy efficiency, water conservation, and indoor air quality -- and specify a level that buildings must meet, such as requiring that it be X percent more efficient than code or that it achieve a specified score from a third-party rating system (discussed below). Jurisdictions can choose to develop their own beyond-code program or adopt a state or national program. Examples include --

    Green building rating systems are third party rating systems that jurisdictions can use to implement green building programs. Some examples -- 

    Building energy rating and disclosure policies require an evaluation of the relative energy efficiency of a home or building and the disclosure of this information to consumers. Like fuel efficiency ratings on vehicles, energy ratings let potential buyers know what a property's utility bills are likely to be -- and this in turn spurs owners to make their buildings more efficient. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy maintains a database of the status of Building Energy Disclosure policies in each state.

    Benchmarking is the practice of measuring a building's energy use and then comparing it to the average for similar buildings nationwide. Building owners and managers use the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager online tool to measure and track the energy and water performance of their building over time and use this information to identify opportunities for improvement. This graphic shows which U.S. cities, countiesm and states have adopted mandatory building energy benchmarking and transparency policies for existing buildings.

    Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS) are state policies that require utilities to help their customers reduce energy use by a specified and increasing percentage or amount each year. Savings are generally achieved through such programs as energy-efficiency appliance rebates, energy audits and weatherization improvements, consumer education, and financial incentives for customers to install energy efficient equipment such as lighting upgrades. An EERS policy is sometimes coupled with a state's renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which requires that a percentage of electricity generation be from renewable sources. A map from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions highlights the states that have EERS policies in place and provides details for each. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy provides similar information about EERS policies in each state.

    Decoupling breaks the link between the amount of energy a utility sells and the revenue it collects. In most U.S. energy markets, utilities' revenues depend on the amount of energy they produce and deliver to their customers. This creates a disincentive for utilities to promote energy conservation and efficiency because that would reduce their profits. With decoupling, utilities receive fair compensation (sufficient to recover their fixed costs and earn a fair rate of return) regardless of the fluctuation in sales. A map from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions highlights the states that have decoupling policies and provides details for each.

    State-level appliance/equipment efficiency standards set minimum energy efficiency levels for equipment and appliances that are not covered by federal efficiency standards. They typically prohibit the sale of less efficient models within the state. States can also receive a waver from the U.S. Department of Energy to set stronger standards for products that are included in the federal standards program.

    Energy standards for public buildings -- often called Lead by Example programs -- require new government buildings to meet strict energy standards, including green building standards, energy-reduction goals, equipment procurement requirements, and/or the use of on-site renewable energy. Some require buildings to attain a certain level of certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program (discussed above). These programs not only achieve substantial energy savings for the governmental entity but also demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of efficiency initiatives and help create a market for clean energy technologies.

    Public benefit funds (PBF) are state-level programs developed through the electric utility restructuring process as a means to assure continued support for renewable energy resources, energy-efficiency initiatives, and low-income support programs. (These funds are also referred to as a systems benefit charge, or SBC.) Such funds are supported through a small charge on customers' electric bills or from specified contributions from the utilities. A map from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions highlights the states that have established such funds and provides details for each.

    Incentive programs can help states and local jurisdictions address market barriers and leverage private sector resources for greater investment in energy efficiency or renewable energy systems. Some examples --


    Building Codes and Rating Systems

    Energy Efficiency Standards

    Other Resources

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    Last updated: 4/4/2020