standards and incentives: overview

What tools are available to communities to catalyze energy-efficiency?

In addition to providing financing for energy-efficient retrofits, some communities have chosen to catalyze residential energy efficiency by setting standards and creating incentives. This section discusses four categories of such activities, each
of which targets a different audience:
  • Similar to traditional building codes, energy codes establish minimum requirements and guidelines for the performance of new construction and existing homes undergoing substantial renovation.
  • Other incentive-based programs, including density bonuses and rebates on the purchase and installation of energy-efficient products, reward developers and residents that take steps to reduce energy consumption.

Photo courtesy of Potterhill Homes

Why is it important to catalyze energy-efficient improvements in new and existing homes?

The tools described in this section do not directly improve residential energy-efficiency in the same way that a home energy retrofit delivers direct results.  Rather, these strategies help to spur action on the part of builders and developers, homeowners, and utility companies, and are important for several reasons.  First, lack of familiarity with energy-efficiency improvements and the related up-front costs may serve as a deterrent that prevents homeowners and owners of multifamily properties from making upgrades, even when they stand to benefit from long-term cost savings.  Tools in this section help to overcome this inertia by triggering the requirement for an energy-efficiency upgrade or audit when the property changes hands.  Adoption and enforcement of energy codes moves energy efficiency into the mainstream by setting basic standards for all new construction and substantial rehab.  And programs that require utilities to achieve reductions in emissions or energy use often spur the creation of a second wave of programs targeting residential customers.  These programs may provide access to additional resources that can be used to make home energy upgrades.

Where are tools to catalyze energy efficiency most applicable?

Energy consumption levels, as well as the energy sources used, vary widely across the country. But people use energy everywhere. Many states and communities have already made substantial progress in adopting stringent programs to catalyze improved energy performance; those jurisdictions may wish to focus on the enforcement of these programs to ensure they are achieving desired results.  For other jurisdictions, this section provides an overview of tools to consider.

Learn more about setting standards and offering incentives for energy efficiency

Go back to learn about other policies that improve residential energy efficiency