Greater Energy Efficiency Can Be Achieved Through Land Use Management

EMD-82-1: Published: Dec 21, 1981. Publicly Released: Dec 21, 1981.

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Today's energy situation is prompting a growing interest in planning, designing, and building communities that are energy-efficient. This includes: (1) minimizing the amount of energy needed to heat and cool buildings; (2) reducing energy intensive infrastructure construction, such as highways and sewer and water lines; and (3) reducing automobile travel.

The Federal Government is in an influential position to encourage greater use of these concepts and in the past has had programs designed for this purpose. However, the Government's emphasis on decreasing the number of Federal programs has curtailed some activities. Many local officials, builders and developers, financial institutions, and the public believe that energy can be saved through better land use. However, they are reluctant to accept these concepts because of implementation costs, the lack of cost savings data, and a strong community resistance to higher densities. The Department of Energy does not recognize land use as an element in achieving energy efficiency. However, it did have several research and development programs directed toward developing energy-efficient communities, but these programs were terminated because of budget cuts. Due to the uncertainty over whether the new Administration will support its energy-efficient community development policies, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has taken limited action to implement them. Unless States and local communities choose to purchase areawide planning services, many of their planning efforts will be curtailed. Federal income tax credits for investments in passive solar systems would be an excellent means of providing incentives for builders to use energy-efficient concepts. However, the Internal Revenue Service has restrictive eligibility criteria for the credits. A number of other existing mechanisms could be used to channel information on energy-efficient land use concepts.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation pertains to proposed legislation on which no action was taken by the 97th Congress.

    Matter: The House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance should, if they wish to provide a maximum incentive, clarify proposed legislation to provide that components which serve a dual purpose of being a structural and passive solar system component are eligible for the tax credit.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation pertains to proposed legislation on which no action was taken by the 97th Congress.

    Matter: The House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance should, if they wish to provide a maximum incentive, clarify proposed legislation to provide that components which serve a dual purpose of being a structural and passive solar system component are eligible for the tax credit.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Since the fiscal year 1983 budget proposes further reductions in conservation activities and does not suggest supporting efforts for energy efficient land use, this recommendation is no longer valid.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should, when evaluating and analyzing funding priorities for long-term research and development programs for fiscal year 1983, determine what, if any, supporting efforts should be undertaken to address the feasibility, advantages, and barriers of applying energy-efficient land use concepts in communities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO has no information on the actions taken in response to this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should determine the extent, if any, to which it needs to emphasize the importance of areawide planning to State and local governments in increasing energy efficiency through the land use decisionmaking process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is inconsistent with the administration's position on Federal involvement in energy conservation activities.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy, in consultation and cooperation with the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, should provide guidance and assistance to Federal agencies on how energy considerations can be included in programs that affect land use. This guidance can be given through existing mechanisms such as Executive Order 12185 and the Interagency Coordination Council.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is inconsistent with the administration's position on Federal involvement in energy conservation activities.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy, in consultation and cooperation with the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, should provide guidance and assistance to Federal agencies on how energy considerations can be included in programs that affect land use. This guidance can be given through existing mechanisms such as Executive Order 12185 and the Interagency Coordination Council.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is inconsistent with the administration's position on Federal involvement in energy conservation activities. The administration's position is that the implementation of this activity would be more appropriate in the private sector.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should work with the secondary mortgage market to help it develop criteria for primary lenders to use in assessing the energy cost impact of energy-efficient land use concepts and explore additional means of providing incentives for using these concepts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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