Policy Options

Building Decarbonization

Region

National

NCEL Point of Contact

Clara Summers
Climate and Energy Program Manager

Contact

Overview

Decarbonized buildings incorporate energy efficiency upgrades, electrification, and design elements which can drastically lower U.S. energy demand while providing benefits such as cost savings, carbon pollution reduction, and improved indoor air quality. Commercial and residential buildings account for ~13% of U.S. emissions, largely due to burning gas, diesel, or heating oil. States that are proactive about building codes and standards can reduce emissions while creating jobs in retrofitting and weatherization.

Policy Options

‘**’ indicates bipartisan support

Appliance Regulations

  • **New Jersey A.5160/S.3324 (enacted 2022): updated efficiency standards for a set of 17 household and commercial appliances such as light fixtures and shower heads.
  • New York S.9405 (enacted 2022): updated the state’s energy building codes to include considerations of climate impact and mitigation strategies; expanded the list of appliances and products that need to meet energy efficiency standards.

Building Codes and Standards

  • Massachusetts S.9 (enacted 2021): established a more robust building energy code that municipalities can opt into, which includes a definition of “net-zero building” and net-zero building performance standards.
  • Massachusetts H.5060 (enacted 2022): gave 10 municipalities the ability to ban fossil fuel hookups in new construction or major renovation projects; allowed only cities and towns that have met the state’s 10% affordable housing target to qualify; required participating municipalities to collect and report detailed data about emission reductions, construction costs and utility bills.
  • Maryland S.B.528 (enacted 2022): established a Building Energy Performance Standard, requiring large buildings to be net-zero by 2040.

Heating

  • Colorado S.B.21-264 (enacted 2021): requires gas distribution utilities to cut emissions from delivering fuel to homes and businesses by 4% by 2025 and by 22% by 2030.
  • Vermont H.715 (passed both chambers 2022): establishes a Clean Heat Standard: a system of tradeable clean heat credits earned from the delivery of clean heat measures that reduce greenhouse gas emissions administered by the Public Utility Commission.

Retrofits

  • Massachusetts S.2226 (introduced 2021): targets a million retrofits over the next decade, while also creating jobs, with strong worker protections; expands the Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program services and Mass Save programs, while prioritizing environmental justice communities.
  • Maryland H.B.0108/S.B.0524 (passed both chambers 2022): requires the Department to develop a plan to coordinate and leverage funding sources to support certain energy efficiency and other home upgrades and a plan to provide energy efficiency retrofits to all low-income households by 2030; etc.
  • Vermont H.229 (introduced 2021):  proposes to perform green housing retrofits of, and to install rooftop solar panels on, income-qualifying homes; to support an equitable transition to a zero-carbon building sector by 2040; to create high-quality union jobs and to prioritize the unionized workforce in conducting retrofits and workforce development programs.

Tax Credits and Incentives

  • California S.B.68 (enacted 2021): requires the Energy Commission publish guidance and best practices to help building owners overcome barriers to electrification of buildings; authorizes the Energy Commission to also award grants for projects that will benefit electricity ratepayers and reduce the costs of building electrification.
  • New Mexico H.B.15 (enacted 2021): updates Sustainable Building Tax Credit to require a higher LEED certification to qualify for the credit; provides tax credits for installing energy-conserving products in existing buildings and increased credits for installation of these products in affordable housing.
  • Utah S.B.188 (enacted 2022): expanded opportunities for low-income individuals and families to receive grants that will help cover the cost of replacing wood-burning fireplaces and appliances with energy-efficient ones.

Workforce Development and Just Transition

  • Connecticut S.B.356 (enacted 2021): requires the Department of Housing to establish a housing energy efficiency retrofit program; prioritizes low-income households and applications that  use the services of local contractors who pay the prevailing wage and make efforts to hire minority business enterprises.
  • **New York S.9422 (enacted 2022): promoted the development of thermal energy networks throughout the state and provided jobs to transitioning utility workers who have lost or are at risk of losing their employment. OR H.B.2842 (enacted 2021): creates Healthy Homes Program and invests $10M into energy weatherization for low-income households.
  • Oregon H.B.2842 (enacted 2021): creates Healthy Homes Program and invests $10M into energy weatherization for low-income households.

Resources

NCEL Resources

Video

Four Ways U.S. States Can Reduce Their Emissions

January 10, 2023

Online Resources

Building Performance Standards - Institute for Market Transformation

An overview of Building Performance Standards and their benefits.

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State and Local Green Building Initiatives - The American Institute of Architects

A report on the many incentives local governments can offer to encourage private development of green buildings.

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Gas Stoves: Health and Air Quality Impacts and Solutions - Rocky Mountain Institute et al.

This report synthesizes the last two decades of research and offer recommendations for policymakers, researchers, health care professionals, and the public to work to swiftly to mitigate the health risks associated with gas stoves

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Resources for State Legislators - US Green Building Council

This document lists USGBC's top resources for state legislators for easy reference.

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