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%.
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.