Why energy-efficient buildings are the key to achieving California’s energy goals

May 5, 2016

California has long sought to be one of the nation's leaders in energy-efficiency. Just last year, Governor Brown issued an executive order that set the Sunshine State on a path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels in the next decade and a half. So far, much of our focus has been on expanding the use of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. While these initiatives are undoubtedly important, they alone are not enough for us to achieve the goals we have before us. Equally important is our commitment to making sure our buildings use this energy as efficiently as possible.

Why do we need to focus on buildings?
Commercial and residential buildings are responsible for expending nearly 70 percent of the electricity used in California, as well as for about 55 percent of the state's natural gas consumption, according to the California Energy Commission. In total, they emit 26 percent of California's greenhouse gasses. Therefore, optimizing energy usage in both existing buildings and new construction is essential if we hope to achieve our goals for a greener future.

"Commercial and residential buildings expend nearly 70 percent of electricity used in California"

The role of software as a solution
Again, there is legislation backing this push, a commitment to double the efficiency of existing buildings by 2030. That being said, our pursuit of that goal is still lagging behind California's increasing energy demand. According to Ethan Elkind, director of the Climate Change and Business Program at the UC Berkeley, this gap is due in large part to the difficulty contractors have in proving how much their efficiency projects truly save.

"Unlike with solar panels, we haven't been able to reliably measure the energy we don't use due to energy-efficiency measures in buildings and provide the documented, standardized savings to attract large-scale financing," Elkind wrote in a column for the Sacramento Bee.

Despite this challenge, Elkind sees a solution on the horizon. "Fortunately, technology is coming to the rescue," he continued. "New software and methodologies can more accurately measure and verify the energy saved through efficiency improvements, and can account for a variety of factors, such as weather and building use."

Focusing on energy-efficient building design is crucial to achieving California's energy goals for 2030. Focusing on energy-efficient building design is crucial to achieving California's energy goals for 2030.

How we can help
At Benningfield Group, we are home to a unique mix of software experts and energy efficiency specialists who work collaboratively to help contractors and building designers solve problems like these. Working alongside a number of organizations, we research specific aspects of building energy performance, committed to creating tools that help evaluate and quantify the effects of improved performance.

In addition to creating new tools, our energy consultants are trained in using existing submetering and data acquisition tools to help building owners and operators collect more granular data, allowing them to calculate end-use energy totals or cost savings predictions. To learn more about how we are working to achieve a more efficient future, contact us today.