"Most energy efficiency efforts have focused on new construction or the low-income sector only, often ignoring the substantial energy savings available by retrofitting existing buildings," said John Thomasian, director of the NGA Center for Best Practices. "This Policy Academy will help states realize energy savings across the board, through comprehensive building retrofits programs," he said.
Buildings consume more energy than any other sector of the U.S. economy and account for the majority of the nation's electricity consumption. But current efforts at cost-effective energy upgrades touch a very small portion of buildings every year, Thomasian said.
The State Building Efficiency Retrofit Policy Academy will help these six states develop and refine policy options such as innovative funding and financing mechanisms. The states will develop building energy use benchmarking tools; targeted education and outreach measures; and workforce training programs.
Building retrofit programs may include measures like air sealing, insulation, upgrading or replacing heating or hot water systems, lighting upgrades, window replacement, appliance replacement with Energy Star products, solar thermal hot water, and energy management system installation. These measures will be used to help the states design larger-scale building retrofit programs that lead to lower energy use, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the creation of new jobs. The Policy Academy is being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, which has responsibility for $11 billion in funding under the Recovery Act to retrofit and weatherize buildings, along with additional funding to deploy other efficiency and renewable technologies.
In December 2009, Energy Secretary Steven Chu outlined his department's plans to invest up to $366 million to establish and operate three new Energy Innovation Hubs focused on accelerating research and development in key energy areas - one of the three is an Energy Efficient Building Systems Design Energy Innovation Hub. The objective of this hub is to develop highly efficient buildings components, systems, and models, said Secretary Chu. Each hub will foster unique, cross-disciplinary collaborations by bringing together leading scientists to focus on a high priority technology. Achieving the hub's main goal of reducing energy use for indoor space conditioning will require a focus on advances in core technologies, such as advanced refrigeration cycles, as well as on development of fully instrumented infrastructure aided by buildings system design and modeling. Chu said, "Such solutions could have a major impact on national electricity consumption, as the nation's buildings consume approximately 70 percent of all electric power."
The Energy Department will provide $22 million in the first year for the establishment of each hub and up to $25 million per year for the following four years to support the operations of each hub - for a total award of up to $122 million per hub. Funding will be competitively awarded to hubs selected on the basis of external peer-review of proposals submitted in response to the Funding Opportunity Announcement for each hub. The other two hubs focus on solar and nuclear energy solutions.