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Efficiency

Background

Efficiency is sometimes called the “first fuel” and is the cornerstone of the path to 100% renewable energy. The cheapest and cleanest form of energy is that which we avoid using by investing in efficiency. Because measures such as insulation, air sealing and windows are not as exciting as wind turbines and solar farms, efficiency often gets overlooked, but it is an essential tool for combating climate change. Efficiency also offers some of the highest investment returns in reduced energy costs over many years.

Buildings are the largest energy users, representing roughly 40% of total usage. A range of programs and incentives exist for both residential and commercial buildings to make measures such as weatherization, insulation and building controls more achievable and profitable. Savings estimates vary widely, but it is realistic to expect reductions in energy usage of 25-50%.

Getting Started

In order to increase energy efficiency in buildings, separate approaches are needed for existing buildings vs. new construction. For existing buildings, the Baseline Energy Assessment serves as valuable starting point. Next, an inventory of existing buildings will lead to plans to bring the existing building stock up to a higher level of efficiency. In every town, there will be certain types of buildings that are energy wasters. These buildings should be identified and prioritized. Beyond that, it is helpful to sort the existing building stock into categories, each requiring different efficiency measures.

Examples include:
  • Low income households
  • Multi-family buildings,
  • Older buildings and
  • Small commercial properties.
For new construction, some innovative approaches are emerging for requiring or incentivizing construction of high-performance buildings. These include stricter or “stretch” building codes, property tax abatements and streamlining of permitting. While enabling legislation for creating stretch codes is not yet in place in Connecticut towns can use influence, example, and education as tools to promote higher levels of efficiency such as Net Zero and Passive House standards. Often the economic value of these approachs is compelling.

Checklist

  • Conduct Baseline Energy Assessment, quantifying aggregate energy usage for the town, including space heating and cooling. Tools for conducting this analysis are provided here. [link to Baseline Assessment section of website]
  • Conduct an inventory of existing building stock, including analysis along several key characteristics, including:
    • Year Built: This variable is a strong indicator of how much remediation is needed to bring buildings up to a reasonable level of efficiency. In the resources section note the “History of the Connecticut State Building Code”.
    • Heating Fuel: Some forms of heating fuel, in particular electric resistance heating, are very inefficient, and present an opportunity for sizable reduction in energy consumption.
    • Building Type: commercial vs. residential, condo vs. multi-family vs. single family, style and type of building (e.g., Cape Cod vs. Colonial).
  • Carry out initiatives to promote efficiency audits and upgrades for existing building stock. Examples might include:
    • Education and promotion of Home Energy Solutions (HES) audits and other available incentives(e.g., C-PACE, Smart-E Loans)
    • Weatherization campaigns.
    • Lightbulb swaps.
  • Successful efficiency initiatives will require strong partnerships, including:
    • Municipal Building Officials
    • Energy contractors
    • Utilities and the EnergizeCT
    • The Connecticut Green Bank
    • Other towns
  • Increasing building efficiency will be an iterative exercise. Look for “pivot points” (i.e. natural times when building improvement is more likely to occur), including:
    • When a building is sold and purchased
    • When an addition is put on
    • When a building is sided or other large upgrades are needed.

Resources

  • Analysis of Existing Building Stock

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