U.S. Residential Energy Efficiency Policy – Our Current System & the Path Forward

We've made meaningful progress in residential energy efficiency, and there's potential for much more.

U.S. Residential Energy Policy
Published February 25, 2021

The challenge of defining U.S. Residential Energy Efficiency Policy

Several years ago, I was invited to come to Taiwan to present to a group of green building professionals. It was an exciting opportunity. The only problem was that I was asked to discuss U.S. Residential Energy Efficiency Policy. I couldn't define it then, and I can't define it now. We have national requirements for appliance and equipment standards, but we don't have an overarching residential (or really any building type) energy efficiency policy. We have a crazy, mixed-up, patchwork quilt of state and local policies. And that is both terrible and wonderful.


It's terrible that we've not made as much progress as we might have in terms of improving our newly built homes' efficiency. It's wonderful that we have hundreds of different jurisdictions, organizations, and individuals working to figure out what will work best for them, at times resulting in new and better ways to pursue change. Our diverse and chaotic country is generally ill-suited to one-size-fits-all approaches. Our immense geography and variety of climates alone demand that we think hard about what variety of energy efficiency policy works best for specific areas.

Victories in Efficiency 

Even though home sizes have generally increased over the past several decades, the residential sector's energy consumption has remained flat. As noted by the Energy Information Agency, this is primarily due to improvements in the way we build homes, advances in the equipment installed in the home, and the fact that the US population has shifted steadily away from heating to cooling climates. So, we can and should call that a victory. But it's not enough.

Image

As shown in this graph from eia, residential energy use has stayed relatively flat since the 1970s, despite increasing home sizes.


Solar Energy is a Game Changer

We know that we can build homes far more efficiently than we do today. It's true in every climate and every part of the nation. In fact, we can build to Net Zero anywhere and everywhere. It's not a question of "if we can," it's a question of "when we will."

The advent of affordable solar energy has made this potential a real one.

It's not even a very complicated formula:

  • We know how to build incredibly efficient building envelopes that work in any climate.
  • We can meet the heating and cooling needs of these homes with very efficient equipment.  
  • We have solar to close the gap to zero.

Dive In!


Access the data behind our market analysis.
Explore the Housing Tides Interface.
Permit forecasts, media analysis, and more!

Follow Market Tides




EnergyLogic Corporate Blog

What are the Roadblocks?

With all that in mind, it’s clear that we know how to build more energy efficient homes, but what will it cost?

Housing attainability is already a vast and growing problem. Over the past decade or more, several factors have incrementally added to the cost to build a home today. Energy efficiency is one part of that increase. But how much of a part, in comparison to other factors?

We'll dig into that question in an upcoming piece.

Ready to explore the depth of data in Housing Tides?

Sign-up for a Housing Tides account to access the interface and dive into the data! 

Access the Housing Tides Interface

For a limited time only, we're offering complimentary access to Housing Tides. Don't miss out!


About the Author
Steve Byers

Steve Byers

Steve Byers is EnergyLogic's CEO and co-founder. Read more about Steve here.

Dive In!


Access the data behind our market analysis.
Explore the Housing Tides Interface.
Permit forecasts, media analysis, and more!

Follow Market Tides




EnergyLogic Corporate Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.