New Homes May All Be "Zero-Energy Capable" by 2015
City of Austin takes steps to become "Clean Energy Capitol"

By: - Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Source: Austin Business Journal

The City of Austin is expected to soon take another step toward its goal of being the "Clean Energy Capital" of the world.

On August 10, 2006, the Mayor and City Council created and appointed a task force to study the possibility of Austin adopting a series of code changes that will make all new single-family homes built in the City’s building code jurisdiction "Zero-Energy Capable Homes" by the year 2015.

Zero-Energy Capable means that a home will be energy efficient enough to be a net-zero energy home with the addition of on-site energy generation, such as solar photovoltaics. This level of energy efficiency is approximately 60% more efficient than homes built to code today.

"The cleanest of all energy, of course, is the energy that doesn’t need to be produced," Mayor Will Wynn said. "This bold step will be another example of Austin’s continuing leadership role in national energy policy." Mayor Wynn serves as chairman of the Energy Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Austin has long recognized energy efficiency as a high-priority energy resource, and is announcing this latest commitment as part of the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy-sponsored "National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency."

At the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners (NARUC) summer meeting, Roger Duncan, Austin Energy’s Deputy General Manager, was joined by other senior utility, government, and public utility officials from across the country making pledges to improve energy efficiency through a variety of programs and regulations.

The Action Plan, developed by a Leadership Group that includes 23 electric and gas utilities, seven state utility regulators, and more than 30 other organizations, seeks to address the nation’s growing demand for energy in U.S. homes, buildings, and industries through efficiency. To date, more than 50 leading organizations from across the country have pledged commitments to help implement the Action Plan. The effort has been coordinated by EPA and DOE.

The Action Plan outlines recommendations for consideration including the importance of:

Recognizing energy efficiency as a high-priority energy resource;

Making a strong, long-term commitment to implement cost-effective energy efficiency as a resource;

Broadly communicating the benefits of and opportunities for energy efficiency;

Promoting sufficient, timely, and stable program funding to deliver energy efficiency where cost-effective; and

Modifying policies to align utility incentives with the delivery of cost-effective energy efficiency and modifying ratemaking practices to promote energy efficiency investments.

These recommendations build upon best practices from successful efficiency programs already operating in many areas. U.S. consumers could save hundreds of billions of dollars on their utility bills over the next ten to fifteen years through greater use of cost-effective energy efficiency.

Austin’s task force will consist of stakeholders of the residential construction industry, including builders, architects, designers, contractors, affordable housing advocates, as well as representatives from the City’s Resource Management Commission and energy efficiency and renewable energy advocates.

The task force will develop strategies that will be piloted through Austin Energy’s nationally recognized Green Building Program. Those strategies that prove to provide a significant level of energy efficiency cost effectively would be incorporated into the City’s Energy Code, beginning with the adoption of the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) that is already underway.


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