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Why California Needs Energy Efficiency Standards Energy efficiency reduces energy costs, increases reliability and availability of electricity, improves building occupant comfort, and reduces impacts to the environment making standards important and necessary for California's energy future.
Reducing energy use is a benefit to all. Homeowners save money, Californians have a more secure and healthy economy, the environment is less negatively impacted, and our electrical system can operate in a more stable manner. The 2008 Standards (for both residential and nonresidential buildings) are expected to reduce the growth in electricity use by 561 gigawatt-hours per year (GWh/yr) and reduce the growth in gas use by 19.0 million therms per year (therms/yr). The savings attributable to new low-rise residences are 102.2 GWh/yr of electricity savings and 7.4 million therms. These savings are cumulative, resulting in 6 times the annual saving over the 3 years to the next standard cycle.
Electricity Reliability and Demand
Buildings are one of the major contributors to electricity demand. We learned during the 2000/2001 California electricity crisis and the east coast blackout in the summer 2003 that our electric distribution network is fragile and system overloads caused by excessive demand from buildings can create unstable conditions. Furthermore, resulting blackouts can seriously disrupt business and cost the economy billions of dollars.
Since the California electricity crisis, the Energy Commission has placed more and more emphasis on demand reductions. The 2008 Standards are expected to reduce electric demand by 131.8 MW each year and 36.6 MW are attributable to low-rise residential buildings. Like energy savings, demand savings accumulate each year.
Comfort is an important benefit of energy efficient homes. Energy efficient houses are well insulated, less drafty, and use high performance windows and/or shading to reduce solar gains and heat loss. Poorly designed building envelopes result in houses that are less comfortable. Even with oversized heating and cooling systems, comfort cannot be achieved in older, poorly insulated and leaky homes.
The Standards provide compliance credit for properly sizing the air conditioner. This improves comfort through a steady source of cooling, as opposed to an oversized air conditioner that runs for a short period of time, cools off the house and then sits idle for an extended period of time. Provided that the duct system has been properly designed and installed and has minimal leaks, a smaller air conditioner that runs for a more extended period does a better job of reducing humidity in a house, may use less energy, and creates less stress on the electrical distribution system than an oversized system.
For the homeowner, energy efficiency helps to ensure that a home is affordable both now and into the future. Banks and other financial institutions recognize the impact of energy efficiency through energy efficient mortgages - they look at the total cost of owning the home, including paying the utility bills. If the utility bills are lower, lenders can qualify borrowers for a larger loan.
From a larger perspective, the less California depends on depletable resources such as natural gas, coal, and oil, the stronger and more stable the economy will remain in the face of energy cost increases. A cost-effective investment in energy efficiency helps everyone. In many ways, it is far more cost effective for the people of California to invest in saving energy than it is to invest in building new power plants.
In many parts of the world, energy use has led to oil spills, acid rain, smog, and other forms of environmental pollution that have ruined the natural beauty people seek to enjoy. California is not immune to these problems, but appliance standards, building standards, and utility programs that promote efficiency and conservation help to maintain environmental quality. Other benefits include reduced destruction of natural habitats, which helps protect animals, plants, and natural systems.
Burning fossil fuels contributes greatly to global warming; carbon dioxide is being added to an atmosphere already containing 35 percent more than it did two centuries ago. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases create an insulating layer around the earth that leads to global climate change. Energy Commission research shows that most of the sectors of the state economy face significant risk from climate change, including water resources (from reduced snow pack), agriculture, forests, and the natural habitats of a number of indigenous plants and animals.
Scientists recommend that actions be taken to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. While adding scrubbers to power plants and catalytic converters to cars reduce other emissions, they do not limit the carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere. Using energy efficiently is a far-reaching strategy that can make an important contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases.
The National Academy of Sciences has urged the whole country to follow California's lead on such efforts, saying that conservation and efficiency should be the chief element in energy and global warming policy. Their first efficiency recommendation was simple: Adopt nationwide energy efficient building codes.
Energy conservation will not only increase comfort levels and save homeowners money, it will also play a vital role in creating and maintaining a healthy environment.
The standard is expected to have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas and other air emissions. Carbon dioxide, one of the more prevalent greenhouse gases, would be reduced by 473,282 tons each year. These estimates are based, when possible, on hourly emission rates for electricity use in southern and northern California. When savings estimates are made on an annual basis, average emission rates are used.