New Regulations and Funding Mean California Takes Lead Position on Energy Efficiency for Existing Buildings

Many trends start in California and then spread eastward across the US. When it comes to energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, California is taking the lead in retrofitting existing buildings to reduce energy use and emissions.

On Monday, October 12, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed California’s AB 758 into law. The legislation requires the California Energy Commission (CEC) to set up a regulatory system to implement a comprehensive energy efficiency program aimed at reducing emissions from existing residential and nonresidential buildings.

Back in the 1980s, Title 24 was passed to ensure that new buildings in California met certain energy efficiency standards. However, as Assembly Speaker Nancy Skinner stated recently, “Over 70 percent of California's 13 million residential buildings and over five billion square feet of commercial structures were built before the implementation of Title 24 in the early 1980's. For the most part, these older buildings have been left behind. While a makeshift array of local ordinances, utility rebates and individual initiatives has resulted in some exemplary building improvements, the vast majority of older buildings remain way below their energy efficiency performance potential.”

The state has announced a $3 billion spending program to help upgrade those buildings. This is the largest commitment to energy efficiency any state has ever made.

The reason is simple; energy efficiency is the lowest cost “source” of electricity. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said efficiency isn’t just the lowest hanging fruit, it is the fruit that’s lying on the ground. Back in June, President Obama said, “one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to make our economy stronger and cleaner is to make our economy more energy efficient.”

Fully retrofitting these buildings will take time, but some energy savings and pollution reductions can be realized almost immediately. For example, consider all of the elevators and escalators these buildings have. They are run by electric motors that, according to the Department of Energy, are the largest end users of electricity in the US, and many motors waste enormous amounts of energy. This is because when motors are lightly loaded, or operate under “variably loaded” environments, they tend to be inefficient. For example, motors in escalators are designed for heaviest-case scenarios, in which two passengers alight each and every step. This rarely happens, which means the motor is often lightly loaded and wasting electricity.

A simple solution to this waste is to install motor efficiency controllers that reduce energy consumption of electric motors. At Power Efficiency, we have developed a solid state motor controller that is designed to dynamically optimize the efficiency of a 3-phase electric motor. In constant speed variable load applications, such as escalators, crushers, grinders, saws and many other types of industrial equipment, our patented E-Save Technology® provides precisely the right amount of power to meet the demands of such an application. In numerous independent third party tests, the Motor Efficiency Controller has proven to save up to 40% of the energy normally used in appropriate applications. The effective cost of power from these MECs is frequently less than 4 cents/kWh without rebates, much less than most conventional and alternative energy sources.

Power Efficiency’s controllers have been deployed on all 122 of the Los Angeles Metro system’s escalators. Testing by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority suggests power savings of approximately 35% on each escalator. In the private sector, the Westfield Group, which operates shopping malls in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US, has installed Power Efficiency’s controllers in several of its malls, including Horton Plaza in San Diego, North County Mall in Escondido, Plaza Bonita in National City and Plaza Camino Real in Carlsbad.

Another method of saving energy comes from Southwall Technologies of Palo Alto, California. They make windows films that are a virtually transparent barrier that blocks up to 65% of the total heat gain when applied to commercial building windows, significantly reducing the need for air conditioning.

The Federal Government isn’t far behind California in focusing on retrofitting older buildings to improve energy efficiency. On October 5, the federal government announced a major push to retrofit federal buildings to become more energy efficient. Uncle Sam has about 500,000 buildings on his fix-up list.

The greening of America is moving ahead, as it should. It will create new jobs and new industries. We can cut our dependence on Middle Eastern dictatorships for crude oil with wind, solar and other sources of renewable energy. All of these, though, are long-term objectives that may take years to accomplish. In the immediate term, retrofitting buildings to be more efficient and less polluting is possibly the biggest bang for the buck we can get. Relatively small changes, like electric motor controllers, have already started us down the road to a cleaner and greener future.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.