Uncertainties About the Effectiveness of Federal Programs To Make New Buildings More Energy Efficient

EMD-80-32: Published: Jan 28, 1980. Publicly Released: Jan 28, 1980.

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An evaluation is reported of the states' progress in developing and implementing thermal efficiency standards for new buildings as part of the State Energy Conservation Program. Issues are discussed which may impede the timely and effective implementation of building energy performance standards currently being developed by the Department of Energy (DOE). The State Energy Conservation program provides for each state to establish a number of conservation programs, including building standards stressing thermal efficiency, to achieve state conservation goals. The Energy Performance Standards for New Buildings Program will govern the design and construction of new commercial and residential buildings to achieve the maximum number of practical improvements in energy efficiency and to increase the use of nondepletable energy in new buildings.

The effectiveness of the State Energy Conservation Program is uncertain. Many states had not implemented thermal efficiency standards by the DOE target date of January 1, 1978. These delays could reduce the projected 1980 energy savings by the equivalent of about 46,000 barrels of oil per day. About 41 states had adopted some type of thermal efficiency standards by September 1979. In some of these states, standards: have not been established for all building categories, are not mandatory for all new construction, or are not mandatory in all jurisdictions of the state. Because DOE has not consistently applied the compliance criteria it has developed to all states, compliance with the law or DOE regulations has not been assured. The implementation of the Building Energy Performance Standards Program can be expedited if states and local governments have fully implemented thermal efficiency standards before the performance standards become effective. Because many state and local governments have not yet adopted thermal efficiency standards, most states do not know which building standards local governments have adopted and if or how local governments are enforcing state standards. In this situation, states will not be able to certify that all jurisdictions have adopted and are enforcing building codes consistent with the performance standards, when they become effective.

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    Priority Open Recommendations:

    Department of Energy
    GAO-20-285PR: Published: Apr 22, 2020. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 2020.

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