Austin Becomes Energy Efficiency Aware (While Keeping the City Weird)

Blog Post | September 26, 2011 - 1:16 pm
By Eric Mackres, Manager, Local Policy and Community Strategies

Policies to improve the energy use information available to building owners, operators, buyers, and tenants have proliferated in the past few years.  The City of Austin, Texas and its municipal electric utility, Austin Energy, have been leaders in these information policies.  Austin is proud of its unique local character, exemplified by the unofficial slogan of the city — “Keep Austin Weird,” and also of its long-standing leadership in energy efficiency. 

With the adoption of its Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure (ECAD) Ordinance in 2008, the City improved the ability of local residents and businesses to account for energy consumption when making decisions about their buildings.  Through a combination of required audits, building benchmarking and rating, and access to incentives for voluntary energy improvements, the policy aims to greatly increase the adoption of energy efficiency measures.  The residential portion of the policy has been in full force since June 2009 and has already made a significant impact, as our new case study on Austin's program highlights:

The city of Austin’s goal for the first year ending mid-2010 was for 25% of homes sold to implement energy improvements before sale or within 12 months after sale. Austin Energy tracked actual rates in the first year at 12%. In the first program year, 9,549 homes were sold, 4,862 homes had been audited, and 3,999 were determined to be exempt. … Of the single-family residential units audited in the first year, 98% of homes implemented at least one energy efficiency recommendation. … If all of the recommendations from the first-year audits were implemented, the annual results would include cost savings of $723,650, energy savings of 7,788,000 kWh and 3.9 MW (the equivalent of powering 650 homes), and greenhouse gas emission reductions of 4,897 tons of carbon dioxide. 

Austin is already the music capital of the Southwest; thanks, in part, to its innovation in energy information policy it has a growing reputation as an energy efficiency capital as well. 

To learn more about the Austin policy, check out the case study.  Also, has begun tracking similar energy information policies around the U.S. and the world.  Currently the site has documented 26 existing state or local policies in the U.S. and compiled a large number of related documents and technical assistance resources.  To find out about additional local initiatives around the country to improve energy efficiency, take a look at ACEEE’s other local policy case studies or stop by my poster presentation at the Energy Efficiency as a Resource conference this week.