States Going Green, Saving Green
As Published in CSG’s Capitol Ideas Magazine
For state governments, going green is a win-win.
As responsible stewards of public funds, states have acted as energy efficiency leaders for many years, recognizing that increased efficiency of state buildings cuts energy costs and stretches taxpayer dollars. Further, reducing energy demand reduces power plant emissions and prevents the need to build new power plants.
When implemented well, energy efficiency measures can be a cost-effective and job-creating strategy with simple measures yielding payback in as little as two years. Some states have found that every dollar invested in efficiency returns at least $2 in net economic benefits.
To maximize these benefits, states also have taken action to serve as leaders by example—demonstrating value, blazing a path of options and supporting private efforts.
All but three states have adopted energy efficiency mandates for state-owned or funded public buildings. These requirements often are based on high-performance building standards for new or significantly renovated facilities, including the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, also known as LEED; ENERGY STAR; Green Globes; and the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard. The Institute for Building Technology and Safety—or IBTS—a CSG Associate partner, provides consulting, inspections and closeout work in Mississippi to support new building projects in meeting the ICC 700-2012 Green Building Standard, earning them Green Certification by the Home Innovation Research Lab. Numerous states use the LEED standard, including Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Nevada and Oklahoma. As the green building market has matured, these standards have called for increasing focus on energy efficiency. Additionally, states may follow the lead of the federal government, which has adopted more requirements over time, going from LEED-Certified in 2002 to LEED-Silver in 2006 and, most recently, to LEED-Gold in 2010.
While these “high-performance” standards set a bar for leaders to leap, energy efficient building codes, also known as energy codes, provide a minimum standard for building envelopes and other protocols to reduce heating, cooling and lighting costs. State energy codes most often are based on model standards developed by the International Energy Code Council and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. According to a recent Stanford University report, modern energy codes are some of the most cost-effective policies for efforts to cut wasted energy.
A number of states base public building standards on their state energy code. Louisiana, for example, requires that new and renovated government buildings exceed the state energy code by 30 percent.
Energy codes, as with nearly everything associated with energy policy, are not static, however. The International Energy Code Council revises its model code every three years to reflect the introduction of new technologies and suggested changes to its existing code. These revisions provide opportunities for states to increase requirements and yield additional benefit.
Mississippi recently updated its 40-year old commercial building energy code to the latest national standard as part of a statewide economic growth plan—the first state in the Southeast to do so. This change in building minimums is expected to save three to five percent of energy use, alone.
The mere presence of an energy code, regardless of version, is not sufficient to yield benefit, however. Compliance and enforcement are crucial, and both require investment in education and training, especially when code changes are being implemented. Under a U.S. Department of Energy supported project, eight eastern states are currently examining their existing code-related efforts and how best to increase compliance. IBTS is assisting in these efforts by conducting needs assessments and training programs in Alabama and New York and will be supporting training in these states in 2016.
Energy Efficiency Project Strategies
For existing public buildings, Energy Savings Performance Contracts, or ESPCs, have facilitated analysis and pursuit of energy saving measures. Under these private-public partnerships, an energy company provides all services for evaluating and deploying strategies for energy savings, as well as financing arrangements that often require no up-front investment by the government client.
The Investor Confidence Project, an initiative of the Environmental Defense Fund, seeks to bolster the pursuit of energy retrofits, through the use of ESPCs and other finance tools. This project draws on the full spectrum of best practices and standards to define a clear roadmap from retrofit opportunity to reliable investor-ready energy efficiency as a means to encourage pursuit of effective energy efficiency projects.The Investor Confidence Project protocol requires involvement of certified developers and quality assurance providers to ensure projected energy and cost savings are realized.
Over the last decade, the cumulative effect of energy efficiency strategies has been significant. While the number of households across the country grew by six percent between 2007 and 2013, total residential energy demand was unchanged during that same timeframe. Advocates and providers of energy efficiency strategies are working diligently to facilitate their use.
The new, evolving and sometimes complex array of opportunities—of which only a handful are discussed above—often require an investment of effort and sometimes guidance to identify priorities and the right approach for those interested in energy efficiency enhancements Increasing pressure to address energy and environmental challenges, including the EPA’s Clean Power Plan rule, will add to the challenge. But investing now to make government facilities greener will pay off in both energy and cost savings—a win for state governments and taxpayers alike.