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Council adopts ordinance requiring energy efficiency audits

Friday, November 7, 2008 by Mark Richardson

Acting on the recommendations of the Energy Efficiency Upgrades Task Force, the City Council voted unanimously Thursday to move forward with a program that Austin Energy estimates will save property owners more than one-half billion dollars over the next decade.


Under the program, which will begin next summer, the owners of most single-family homes will be required to perform an energy audit prior to the sale of the home and would be required to disclose the results before closing. Audits would cost between $200 and $300, with Austin Energy certifying the auditors.


Likewise, the owners of commercial and multifamily buildings would be required to conduct a similar audit within the next two years and share the results with tenants, prospective purchasers, and Austin Energy


Richard Morgan with Austin Energy told Council members that the average homeowner would spend about $1,066 to upgrade their home as a result of an energy audit. However, over a 10-year period, the improvements will save them $2,420, for a net savings of $1,354.


Across the city, Morgan estimates that property owners would spend some $124 million for efficiency upgrades, but would save $555 million on their utility bills. It would also lower the power demand to Austin Energy by 225 megawatts, and save 3.66 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions over a 10-year period.


The program has set goals, or targets, for three categories of structures.


For single-family structures, the number of owner-occupied homes sold each year that would perform the specified upgrades would grow from 25 percent in the first year to 85 percent in the fourth year of the ordinance.


For multi-family buildings such as condominiums and apartments, 80 percent of the oldest multifamily units (built before 1970) would perform the specified upgrades within two years; 80 percent of the next oldest multifamily units (1970 – 1979) would perform the specified upgrades within four years; and 80 percent of the next oldest multifamily units (1980 – 1999) would perform the specified upgrades within six years.


For commercial buildings, the program has a goal of achieving a score of 50 or higher for 80 percent of the square footage of commercial properties in Austin as determined by the EPA Energy Star Building ratings.


Austin Energy  estimates that if all of the eligible properties receive energy efficiency upgrades between 2009 and 2020, the average energy efficiency of the existing stock of homes in Austin would be improved by a range of between 12 to 15 percent, multifamily units would improve between 10 to 16 percent, while commercial properties would be improved by at least 20 percent.


On average, the upgrades made through the program would pay for themselves within 2.25 years through reduced energy bills.


The report also noted that over 10 years, the program would cost the city some $70 million in rebates to participants, but would benefit utility ratepayers by $158 million in avoided power plant capital costs and $15 million in carbon credits.


City staff will reassess the program after two years, Morgan said, to see if the goals are being met, and could recommend adjustments in the program if needed.

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