Conservation Update: The Greening of State Facilities: State Policies to Encourage and Require Green Building Principles in the Public Sector
This article was featured in the November-December 2008 edition of the State Energy Program's bimonthly newsletter, Conservation Update.
by Brian Lips, Justin Barnes, and Laurel Varnado, North Carolina Solar Center at N.C. State University
States across the country are adopting policies to reduce the energy consumption of state-owned buildings. By increasing efficiency in their own facilities, state governments are leading by example and demonstrating how to become more efficient to the commercial building sector. Furthermore, state governments are taking advantage of the perception that energy costs are an expense that can be reduced, freeing up dollars in tight budgets for essential public services and further efficiency measures.
The following sections provide a profile of state policies implemented, to date, in the following general categories:
There are a number of economic factors driving the push to be green. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, federal, state, and local government agencies spend altogether more than $10 billion annually on energy. The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, in its Buildings Energy Data Book, says that commercial buildings account for 35% of total U.S. electricity consumption. And the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that total U.S. electricity consumption could increase by as much as 40% by 2030.
Although energy efficient products and renewable energy technologies typically have a higher up-front cost than their conventional counterparts, they can have substantially lower annual operating costs and total life-cycle costs (when all costs of owning and operating the equipment are added together over its lifetime). Regardless of promising life-cycle economics, some state agencies still prefer conventional, less efficient products with lower up-front costs.
To help counter this tendency to near-term decision-making, some states have enacted policies that require state agencies to purchase—or to consider purchasing—energy efficient products or renewable energy technologies. They do this for two primary reasons: to encourage energy efficiency throughout the state economy and to save money.
Energy Consumption Reduction Requirements for State Facilities
One method states have undertaken to ensure reductions in energy consumption in their facilities is to impose energy-reduction mandates or targets. To date, 23 states have adopted policies aimed at directly reducing energy consumption by state agencies.
In general, there are three approaches to setting these energy-reduction goals:
- Some states, such as Louisiana, Idaho, and Wisconsin, require new buildings to exceed the energy-efficiency requirements of relevant energy codes or exceed the efficiency of comparable, traditionally constructed buildings.
- Other states have signed the ENERGY STAR Challenge, with the aim of improving the energy efficiency of their buildings by 10 percent or more. According to ENERGY STAR, state governments and agencies in 30 states have accepted the ENERGY STAR Challenge for its procurement strategies or for its goals for energy reduction in buildings.
- Finally, 23 states use legislation and executive orders to set overarching goals for all state agencies to reduce their combined energy use by a certain percentage compared to consumption during a baseline year.
North Carolina Utility Savings Initiative
Some states use a combination of these approaches. For example, the North Carolina Utility Savings Initiative combines overall goals with a code requirement. The initiative began in July 2002 in response to a memo from North Carolina Governor Mike Easley and in 2007 was bolstered by legislation (SB-668).
As an illustration of the substantial scale of this initiative, North Carolina manages more than 12,000 buildings, comprising more than 110 million gross square feet.
In its present iteration, the N.C. Utility Savings Initiative encompasses two challenges:
- A 20% reduction in energy use per gross square foot in all state buildings by 2010 compared with the baseline Fiscal Year 2002-2003; and a 30% reduction by 2015
- A mandate that all new state, university, and community college buildings more than 20,000 square feet must be built to be 30% more efficient than the building code requires.
To meet these two goals, the state launched a comprehensive effort involving rate reviews of utility bills, low-cost operations and maintenance surveys, and building energy monitoring. The state also conducted comprehensive training in energy management for facilities personnel, including strategic energy planning and conservation awareness.
So far, the efforts have paid off. Through Fiscal Year 2006-2007, the North Carolina State Energy Office has recorded a 13.5% reduction in energy per gross square foot for state-owned buildings. And in 2003, North Carolina won an Energy and Environment Innovation Award from the Council of State Governments for the Utility Savings Initiative.
Green Building Requirements for State-Owned Buildings
State policies that set minimum environmental or energy standards for new state construction are among the most common green government initiatives. Altogether, 33 states currently have some form of building standard for their buildings.
The U.S. Green Building Council's rating system, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), is one of the most common approaches used by policy makers. According to the council and the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), a total of 23 states plus Washington D.C. integrate one or more versions of the LEED rating system into their state building policies.
Both state and local governments have been early adopters of LEED, thus setting an example for the private sector. For example, Maryland and New York initiated green building programs referencing LEED in 2001. Local governments in Austin, Texas; Seattle, Washington; and Santa Monica, California adopted LEED policies for public buildings in 2000.
LEED is not the only rating system embraced by policy makers. Of the six states that enacted or amended green building policies in 2008, five specifically reference the Green Building Institute's Green Globe rating system as equally acceptable. The other state, Maryland, does not specifically identify the Green Globes program, but in its High Performance Building Act, it left the door open to other nationally recognized standards. Read the wording of the legislation.
Pennsylvania opted to depart completely from an established certification program and instead created a series of prescriptive minimum improvement measures defined in the language of the enabling executive order.
Even when working within the LEED rating system, policy makers have the freedom to pursue specific goals and priorities. The City of Dallas, for instance, supplements a basic LEED-Silver requirement with a requirement that public works and transportation facilities achieve LEED Gold—an additional requirement—and earn additional points in water use reduction and optimizing energy performance.
Fourteen states prioritize energy efficiency by requiring new state buildings to exceed the existing state energy code by a specific percentage (usually 10% - 30%). Here, efforts by the State of Minnesota stand out as truly unique and innovative. Minnesota has developed Sustainable Building Guidelines based in part on specific energy efficiency improvements over the state energy code. The existing guidelines require new state buildings, and major renovations beginning in 2009, to exceed the state energy code by at least 30%. An additional stipulation requires building managers to purchase ENERGY STAR appliances, resulting in additional energy savings on top of the 30% attributable to the building itself.
In 2008, Minnesota enacted legislation establishing Sustainable Buildings 2030, which requires the development of performance standards for commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings. The standards are designed to achieve a 60% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010 and a 90% reduction by 2025. These performance standards will be integrated into the existing "Sustainable Building Guidelines" as soon as it is practical.
Efficiency Procurement and Renewable Energy Requirements
Twenty-five states have adopted policies that require state agencies to purchase products that are rated ENERGY STAR or that meet Federal Energy Management Program guidelines, when available. In New York, for example, state agencies (and other public entities covered by the regulations) must choose ENERGY STAR products when purchasing new energy-consuming products or replacing existing equipment. For product categories that are not covered by ENERGY STAR, state agencies are required to use the Federal Energy Management Program purchasing recommendations. Additionally, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has developed minimum efficiency standards for 18 specific energy-consuming products and appliances purchased by or for state entities.
Seven states have adopted policies that require or encourage state agencies to at least consider installing renewable energy systems on their buildings. California and Oregon have adopted policies that specifically require photovoltaics (PV) to be installed on public buildings.
The California law requires the state Department of General Services to ensure that solar energy systems are installed on all state buildings and parking facilities by January 2009 if it is deemed cost-effective over the life of the system and if funding is available. As of June 2008, eight PV projects totaling 4.2 megawatts (MW) in capacity have been completed at state facilities in California as a result of this policy. Furthermore, the state has received bids for, and is currently analyzing, an additional 23 MW from 34 projects.
Oregon has an even stricter requirement for installing solar energy systems on state-owned buildings. For all new building projects, 1.5% of the project's cost must be dedicated to installing a PV system or a solar-thermal system on the building. If the contracting agency can prove that this is not feasible for a certain building, the building may be granted an exemption. However, the dollar amount that would have been dedicated to a solar system on such a building must be used to install a system on the next building that agency constructs—in addition to the 1.5% of the cost of the new building.
For more information on policies and incentives states have adopted to encourage or require greater efficiency in the state sector through green building principles, see the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.
About the Authors
Brian Lips, Justin Barnes, and Laurel Varnado
North Carolina Solar Center at N.C. State University
Brian Lips is a policy analyst for the North Carolina Solar Center at N.C. State University in Raleigh. Lips conducts research related to government and utility incentives and policies for the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), with an emphasis on Western states. This research includes analysis of state policies related to green buildings.
After joining the DSIRE staff in 2006, Lips coordinated the research of policies and incentives that promote energy efficiency. This efficiency component of DSIRE was funded by the State Technologies Advancement Collaborative (STAC).
Lips graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with a degree in integrated science and technology.
Justin Barnes is a policy analyst at the North Carolina Solar Center, where he helps update and maintain DSIRE. He joined the DSIRE staff in 2007 and focuses primarily on states in the Great Plains, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic regions.
Barnes holds a bachelor's degree in Geography from the University of Oklahoma at Norman and a master's degree in environmental policy from Michigan Technological University.
Laurel Varnado is a policy analyst at the North Carolina Solar Center where she worked on the DSIRE project from 2007–2008. During her time with DSIRE, her focus was predominantly centered on renewable energy and energy efficiency policy in the southeastern states. Laurel currently focuses on renewable energy regulatory policy at the N.C. Solar Center and publishes the Interstate Renewable Energy Council's monthly Connecting to the Grid newsletter.
Varnado holds a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master's degree in sustainable development from the School for International Training.