Governors' Policy Academy Formed for Energy Efficiency in Buildings

WASHINGTON, DC, November 14, 2008 (ENS) – The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices has selected seven states to participate in a Policy Academy designed to help states develop an action plan and implementation strategy to improve energy use in buildings.

Buildings consume more energy than any other sector of the U.S. economy and account for nearly three-quarters of electricity generation, about 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, and large amounts of on-site fuel use.

“States can play a major role in reducing energy use in buildings through improved codes, incentives for adopting energy efficient technologies, education, and other measures,” said John Thomasian, director of the NGA Center. “This Policy Academy will help states work through some of the challenges they face when developing policies to improve energy efficiency and increase use of renewable energy in buildings.”

States were chosen to participate in the academy through a competitive process open to all states and U.S. territories. The states of Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Michigan, Utah and Wisconsin, representing both hot and cold parts of the country, were selected.

“This project comes at the perfect time for Hawaii as we continue to maximize our federal and private partnerships to increase Hawaii’s energy independence,” said Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii.

Hotels and apartment buildings in Honolulu,
Hawaii (Photo credit unknown)

Hawaii’s central challenge is its high dependence on imported fossil fuel for its energy needs. Ninety-six percent of the crude oil refined and consumed in the state is from sources outside the United States, leaving Hawaii especially vulnerable to supply disruptions. Seventy-eight percent of Hawaii’s electricity generation is from diesel and 13 percent is from coal, resulting in the highest energy costs in the nation.

“State leadership is critical to meeting our long term energy challenges,” said John Mizroch, the U.S. Department of Energy’s acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

In addition to financial assistance, the Energy Department will support Policy Academy states with experts from national labs and other technical resources.

“Building efficiency is the cheapest, most abundant source of energy to meet our growing electricity demand,” said Mizroch. “Policies that incentivize all levels of investment in building efficiency and renewable energy can unleash untapped resources, help our economy, improve our environment, and increase our energy security.”

At this point, suggested strategies are familiar – improving building codes and encouraging participation in voluntary certification programs; increasing consumption from renewable sources; and funding the effort with low-interest loans, utility rate restructuring, or public benefit funds.

While some states have improved energy efficiency and increased reliance on renewable resources in new and existing buildings using these strategies, the National Governors Association believes that many cost-effective opportunities remain untapped due to market and policy barriers.

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