The Most Important Energy Law You've Probably Never Heard Of


Blog post originally appeared on the USGBC website.One of the most exciting moments in energy policy is happening right now, but chances are, you haven't even heard of it. California is currently in the process of designing and implementing a statewide law that will create jobs, support a growing industry, drastically reduce the amount of energy that Californians use and the amount of greenhouse gas we release, save consumers money, and increase comfort. And we're doing all of this simply by making our buildings more efficient.

But let's take a step back. In 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger passed AB 758. Authored by Assembly Woman Nancy Skinner and sponsored by Global Green USA (along with many additional supporters, such as USGBC California), the law requires the California Energy Commission (CEC) to develop and implement a program to achieve greater energy savings in all existing buildings in California. Once the bill passed into law, it became known as The Comprehensive Energy Efficiency Program for Existing Buildings (though most people still call it AB 758).

Buildings represent the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California. Much of California’s current energy efficiency policy has focused on new construction through both government and third party approaches (think Title 24 and LEED); as a result, we've been able to ensure that the buildings built today are more energy-efficient than at any time in the past. However, very little has been done to make our existing buildings more efficient. Given that 55 percent of California's housing stock and more than 40 percent of California’s nonresidential building stock were built before any building energy efficiency standards were put into place, retrofitting all our existing buildings could have a serious impact. AB 758 finally gives California the tools to tackle energy efficiency improvements in existing buildings.

Making our existing buildings more efficient is crucial if we want to meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets under California's Global Warming Law, AB 32, and if we want to seriously reduce the amount of electricity we use. After a three-year lag between passing the bill into law and designing the program under the law, we are now starting to see the CEC make the creation and implementation of this program one of its first priorities.

Global Green USA and many others will continue to advocate for aggressive implementation that is aligned with California's Global Warming Law. We expect to see the first draft of the implementation plan in January 2013, with public workshops to follow. This will be the perfect time for those with expertise in energy efficiency retrofits to weigh in, so stay tuned for specific details on how to get more involved. After long last, we're tackling the problem of existing buildings head on.