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Improving Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

The California Energy Commission (CEC) developed a plan to increase energy efficiency in existing buildings. It is updated every three years. Achieving the state’s energy and climate goals requires the energy performance of existing buildings be improved. Creative solutions and collaboration from an array of participants are needed for success.

California has long been a leader in efforts to improve building energy efficiency, both at the time of construction and upon a major remodel or equipment replacement. 

The 2019 California Energy Efficiency Action Plan (2019 Action Plan) covers issues, opportunities, and savings estimates pertaining to energy efficiency in California’s buildings, industrial, and agricultural sectors. The plan is organized by the three state goals driving energy efficiency activity: doubling energy efficiency savings by 2030, removing and reducing barriers to energy efficiency in low-income and disadvantaged communities, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector.

California has set ambitious climate and clean-energy goals to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions while creating a more resilient and reliable energy sy stem. Most recently, Senate Bill 350 (de León, Chapter 547, Statutes of 2015) established new energy efficiency and renewable electricity targets for 2030 to support California’s long -term climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Recognizing the role that California’s buildings play in energy use, the Energy Commission and partner agencies have used a variety of strategies to focus on improving building energy efficiency, generating renewable energy generation on-site, installing distributed energy storage sy stems, and providing electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

However, significant obstacles remain in ensuring that all Californians have access to and benefit from these clean-energy opportunities. In recognition of the barriers that exist for low-income and disadvantaged communities to access clean-energy technologies and solutions, SB 350 required the California Energy Commission, in coordination with other state agencies, to study the barr iers for low-income customers to access clean-energy technologies and programs.

Published in December 2016, the Low-Income Barriers Study, Part A: Overcoming Barriers to Energy Efficiency and Renewables for Low -Income Customers and Small Business Contracting Opportunities in Disadvantaged Communities (Barriers Study ) identified barriers to and recommendations for increased access for low-income and disadvantaged communities to clean-energy solutions, as well as local small business contracting opportunities.

One of the recommendations of the study included the following: Develop a comprehensive action plan focused on improving opportunities for energy efficiency, renewable energy, demand response, energy storage, and electric vehicle infrastructure for multifamily housing, with attention to pilot programs for multifamily rental properties in low-income and disadvantaged communities.

The Clean Energy in Low-Income Multifamily Building (CLIMB) Action Plan identifies current programs and policies, remaining challenges, and concrete actions that the State can take to accelerate the implementation of distributed energy resources (DERs)—energy and water efficiency strategies (including on-site water reuse and green infrastructure), demand response, on-site renewable energy, electric vehicle infrastructure installation, and energy storage—within California’s multifamily housing stock. With a significant portion of Californians living in multifamily buildings, these buildings offer an opportunity and a challenge to accelerating the state’s clean-energy progress.

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