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California has set a state target to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to further reduce emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.  A specific target has been set that aims to reduce household energy use by 40% by 2020. Since the mid-1970s, California has implemented energy-efficiency measures such as building codes and appliance standards with stringent efficiency requirements. A new legislation (AB 758) that provides financing for building owners to undertake efficiency improvements was adopted to encourage energy retrofit efforts. The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) organises and regulates all utility-funded energy efficiency programmes. The CPUC acts as a central hub for energy efficiency retrofits in California working with investor-owned utilities, programme administrators, and merchants to develop programmes and measures to transform technology, increase communications and advice and promote the uptake of energy retrofits. 

The Policy Tool for Renovation highlights five key areas where California’s Renovation Policy Package excels: overall country reduction targets, building code requirements for renovations, utility-funded energy efficiency programmes, market development for ESCO based energy efficiency programmes and training and education campaigns.

The overall residential consumption indicators have decreased gradually between 2000 and 2006. However, as of 2006, California’s consumption indicators have been increasing.  California has seen a swell of population in the last decade. Population is 38 million (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012).

Regulatory Measures

Overall Targets

California has a state target to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to further reduce emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Renovation Targets for Residential Buildings

The California government has set mandatory energy reduction targets for the whole building stock. The target requires that household energy use is reduced by 40% by 2020. However, no specific target has been set for the renovation of the existing building stock. 

More info: Assembly Bill 32, AB 758

Renovation Targets for Public Buildings

In July 2004, Executive Order S-20-04 was issued requiring for state agencies and departments to reduce their energy consumption by 20% from 2003 levels by 2015.

By 2025 new state buildings and major renovations started must be constructed to be zero net energy by 2025 and 50% of the existing floor area must be on course to achieving zero net energy.

More info: Government website

Building Assessment

Building Codes Requirements for Renovation

California’s 2013 energy code, California Building Standards Code (Title 24) is considered to be one of the most aggressive and well-enforced energy codes in the United States, and is deemed to be a powerful vehicle for advancing energy-efficiency standards for building equipment. The code is primarily a prescriptive based code; however, some of the specifications in the code are performance-based allowing increased flexibility for designers.

No value for airtightness

Code available here

Labelling Schemes

California does not have a mandatory labelling scheme in place for residential buildings but does have a voluntary system set up called the California Home Energy Ratings System, it is administered by the Energy Commission and is the only recognized rating system in the state. The assessment metrics were designed to complement California’s Zero Net Energy (ZNE) targets so that rating of zero means that the building is zero net energy whereas a rating of 100 is energy use equivalent to the median California building of the type being rated. 

More info: Government website

Financial Instruments

Incentive Schemes

The majority of financial assistance, provided to encourage property owners to adopt energy efficiency, is available in the form of rebates or incentives through utilities. With the current downturn in the Californian economy, there has been an active movement towards financing solutions offered by the public sector as a means to increase the scale of the programmes to a wider set of participants, and to reduce the overall cost to ratepayers.  Investor-owned utilities are required by law to reduce the demand for energy as the principal approach to meeting energy needs in the state through financial mechanisms.

More info: California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission

Taxation Mechanisms

No taxation mechanisms are in place for residential energy efficiency at state level.

Economic Instruments

Utility-Funded Energy Efficiency Programmes

AB 758 requires utilities to implement an energy efficiency programme that encourages energy savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions in existing residential and non-residential buildings. All utility customers are entitled to avail of funding from the utilities. There are more than 40 utilities in California that offer various levels of rebates and loans. Most are low interest loans. The percentage of funding given to each renovation varies greatly, with some paying up to 80% of costs. 

The California Public Utility Commission’s (CPUC) 2010-2012 portfolio of energy efficiency programmes directed the utilities to develop a new type of programme that attempts to achieve holistic energy efficiency upgrades for residential buildings.

More info: California Public Utilities Commission and their Fact Sheet

Market Instruments for Energy Efficient Renovations

Although ESCOs have actively engaged with municipal government they have been less involved with universities and the State. The universities have a long standing partnership with the utilities, and the state is in the process of upgrading an early wave of about 450 buildings, with plans for a larger wave of new projects in the future. 

More info: California Energy Commission Report

General Information & Capacity Building

Training and Education Campaigns

The California Energy Commission, California Public Utility Commission’s CPUC, local governments, and stakeholders are working together to develop a state-wide group to improve communication about the residential whole house upgrade programme. 

There are several universities that offer courses on the technical elements of a holistic, energy renovation. 

More info: California Energy Commission

One stop solution centre

More info: Energy Upgrade California


Overall Performance

Please see Create Graphs tab above.