News Article
April 29, 2013

ACEEE: Policy Improvements Can Advance Energy Efficiency

U.S. Policy Opportunities for Improving Building Performance

The United States has made substantial progress in energy efficiency – energy use today is about half what it would have been without improvements made over the past 40 years. Still, there are opportunities to do a great deal more – cost-effectively – by adopting available and emerging energy technologies, according to a March 2013 report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.


The report, “Overcoming Market Barriers and Using Market Forces to Advance Energy Efficiency,” cites substantial barriers that stand in the way of efficiency. It also outlines 16 policies that could help remove those barriers and speed full adoption of technologies that could lower projected U.S. energy use by as much as 31 percent by 2030. In particular, we’d like to highlight the following 5 policy options:


Building labeling and disclosure. Labeling and disclosure provide buyers and lessees with data on a building’s energy performance. Armed with this information, they can compare properties, understand the costs of owning or leasing them, and realize the value of profitable efficiency investments.

Unfettering energy data. The more information businesses, households and institutions have about their energy use and potential savings, the better the energy decisions they can make. Policies should help ensure that utilities, end users and software providers have access to data that can help inform the market and support sound investment decisions.

Efficient government buildings. Federal, state and local governments consume large amounts of energy – $14.5 billion worth for the U.S. federal government alone in 2007. Many government buildings are technologically outdated. Congress, governors and mayors should push policies that steadily make government buildings more efficient.


Capitalizing energy efficiency investment. While many energy improvements are cost-effective in the long run, high initial costs and lack of access to capital are substantial barriers. Financing mechanisms that deserve more experimentation include Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), on-bill financing, and energy service agreements.

Incorporating energy costs into mortgage underwriting. Homes and buildings with high and low energy costs are treated the same in mortgage underwriting even though lenders’ risks are higher for homes that generate higher energy bills. The Federal Housing Administration and other government-affiliated mortgage programs should explicitly include applicant energy and transportation costs as part of loan approvals.


These policies alone could bring substantial progress toward a more energy efficient economy. Download the entire report or its executive summary at >>

U.S. Energy use per unit GDP, 1970-2010

US energy use per unit GDP

April 2013

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