Driving transformation to energy efficient buildings: Policies and actions, 2nd edition

The UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative aims to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. Efficient buildings are vital to achieving sustainable development because they align economic, social, and environmental objectives, creating triple bottom line benefits. However, the scale and pace of current actions around the world are insufficient to transform buildings into engines of the sustainable, energy efficient economy.

This second-edition report reviews government policy options that can accelerate building energy efficiency improvements. New in this edition is a building efficiency policy assessment tool that provides a practical starting point for accelerating energy efficiency policy development. The tool offers a simple framework to help decision-makers set policy priorities with input from stakeholders. It outlines a workshop designed to support consensus-based, multi-stakeholder collaboration and uses visual tools to build consensus and prioritize building efficiency policy options and strategies.

This edition also includes new content on the private-sector’s role and priorities around building energy efficiency, in particular describing how to create market conditions that support investment in energy efficient buildings and leverage private-sector capital, technology and services to scale up the market.

Buildings and building efficiency have significant impacts all three sustainable development goals:

Economic development: Each $1 spent on energy efficiency avoids more than $2, on average, in energy supply investments. Investments in building efficiency free up scarce resources for other purposes.  Buildings consume nearly 40 percent of energy globally. Building efficiency has the potential to slow the growth of energy demand significantly in developing countries.

Social development: Some 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Buildings form the fabric of these urban landscapes. There is a tremendous opportunity to shape tomorrow’s cities and buildings and avoid “locking in” inefficiencies. Efficient buildings can also improve quality of life for millions with improved comfort and indoor and outdoor air quality. They can also stretch electricity resources, improving energy access, reliability and security in under-served areas of the world.

Environmental goals: A study by International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that if implemented globally, energy efficiency measures could deliver two-thirds of the energy-related CO2 emissions reductions needed to achieve climate protection. Making new and existing buildings more efficient offers more potential carbon emission mitigation than any other major abatement strategy.

There are opportunities to improve the building energy efficiency throughout their lifecycles, in developed and developing countries alike. Policies are being developed to address significant market, financial, technical, awareness and institutional barriers to building efficiency. These policies will help enable critical market actors to make decisions to promote energy efficiency. They fall into six categories:

  • Building efficiency codes and standards that require a minimum level of energy efficiency in buildings, appliances, equipment or lighting.
  • Efficiency improvement targets that can move individual owners or entire geographies to action.
  • Policies that increase awareness, information and market transparency, like competitions, audits, ratings and certifications, energy performance disclosure, and public awareness campaigns.
  • Financial incentives such as grants and rebates, tax treatments, government risk mitigation guarantees, revolving loan funds, and policies that enable energy performance contracting.
  • Utility programs like energy efficiency spending requirements, on-bill financing, advanced metering, and pricing that more accurately reflects the cost of producing electricity.
  • Human and technical capacity development through direct assistance and workforce training.

Market conditions affect private-sector investment decisions and business viability. Creating the right conditions requires aligning the interests of architects, construction companies, building trades, equipment manufacturers, and government offices and officials. To achieve greater energy efficiency, there must be a compelling view to why it is to everyone’s benefit to change current business practice.

This report was made possible thanks to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Center for Clean Air Policy, the World Green Building Council, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the dedication of countless individuals included in the Closing Acknowledgements section.



Following is a list of the four sections of the report for individual download:

Driving Transformation to EE Buildings: Big Picture

Driving Transformation to EE Buildings: Policy Options

Driving Transformation to EE Buildings: Taking Action

Driving Transformation to EE Buildings: Assessment Tool

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