Hillary Clinton’s Plan for Advanced Buildings: Creating Jobs, Reducing Pollution and Saving Americans Money

Buildings consume more energy than any other single sector in the United States, accounting for 40% of national energy demand and costing American families and businesses almost $400 billion per year.  Taxpayers spend more than $50 billion on energy in public buildings—more than the budget of NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency combined.  Inefficient buildings not only raise energy costs and increase pollution, but they are also less healthy to live in and less productive to work in.

Hillary Clinton believes that climate change is one of the defining challenges of our time—and that it demands bold, immediate action. Clinton will use every tool available to combat the threat of climate change and make the US the clean energy superpower of the 21st century. That’s why she has called for a Clean Energy Challenge to help states, cities, and rural communities do more to cut carbon pollution and deploy clean energy. But deploying more clean energy isn’t enough—we also need to cut energy consumption, which will save families and businesses money and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.

As President, Clinton would set a goal to cut energy waste in American homes, schools, stores, municipal buildings, hospitals and offices by a third within ten years of taking office.  This goal will save families and businesses money, cut dangerous pollution, and help keep the United States at the forefront of tackling the climate challenge.

Clinton’s plan will:

  • Reduce annual energy costs for American households and businesses by more than $70 billion, or $600 for the average household.
  • Save American taxpayers more than $8 billion a year by reducing energy costs in public buildings and lowering healthcare and educational costs through efficiency improvements in hospitals, colleges and universities.
  • Phase down the use of expensive and highly polluting fuel oil and propane to heat homes and businesses over the long term, improving air quality and protecting households from price spikes while reducing US oil consumption by more than 300 million barrels per year.
  • Create good-paying jobs and careers in construction, design, engineering, manufacturing and building operations.
  • Make American businesses more competitive by lowering energy costs and raising workplace productivity.

Giving households and businesses the information they need

Market demand for energy efficient homes, office buildings, stores, appliances and devices is growing rapidly. Interest in efficiency improvements among American businesses has nearly tripled over the past five years. Energy efficiency is now a top concern for American households as well. Clinton will unlock America’s building efficiency potential by ensuring homeowners, renters, commercial building owners and tenants have information on and access to cost-saving building efficiency options.

  • Better building codes: Building energy codes are one of the most cost-effective ways to improve efficiency in new residential and commercial buildings. But the way these codes are developed and adopted today can prevent households and businesses from capturing the full energy cost savings potential of their new home, store or office building. Clinton will work with national code organizations like the ICCASHRAE, and IAPMO to develop model building codes that address the energy performance of the building as a whole, accelerate the development and deployment of advanced building technology and practices, and prevent value engineering from impeding cost-effective energy efficiency solutions like mechanical insulation.
  • Benchmarking and transparency: While energy makes up a significant share of the operating costs of any building, prospective buyers and tenants have little ability to compare the energy costs of different properties. Cities and states across the country, from Atlanta to Austin, have created programs where commercial and multifamily residential buildings report on their energy use and benchmark it to other buildings of a similar class. This not only helps new buyers and tenants assess affordability but highlights the potential for efficiency improvements for existing owners.  Clinton would expand these successful local policies into a consistent national program.
  • Energy efficient mortgages: Residential efficiency improvements, whether in new or existing homes, can significantly reduce a household’s monthly energy bills, yet federal mortgage agencies do not take this into account in determining the value and affordability of home loans they underwrite. Clinton would fix this shortcoming, and work with companies like Zillow and Trulia to make expected energy cost information easily available to prospective buyers. The Institute for Market Transformation estimates this measure alone would generate 83,000 jobs and save American households $1.3 billion a year on their energy bills by ensuring efficiency investments are accurately valued in the residential property market.
  • Appliance labels and standards: EPA’s ENERGY STAR program has become a vital resource for consumers looking to compare the energy efficiency of different appliances and devices, from televisions to refrigerators, and has saved Americans more than $30 billion a year on their energy bills. Clinton will defend this important program and expand its coverage to a broader range of models and products. She will also defend and extend national energy efficiency standards for appliances and equipment that drive innovation and save American consumers $63 billion a year on their utility bills.

Supporting states, cities and rural communities that take the lead

Most buildings policy is made at the local level, and unlocking America’s building efficiency potential requires both states and cities to take action. Fortunately, state and local leaders are stepping up to the plate across the country. As part of her $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge, Clinton will award competitive grants to states, cities and rural communities that are ready to lead, giving them the tools, resources and flexibility they need to succeed in the following areas:

  • Adopting and enforcing advanced building energy codes: While the federal government can work with national code organizations to develop model building energy codes, it’s up to states and cities to adopt and enforce them. Clinton will provide challenge grants to those that meet or exceed advanced building energy code levels, like Illinois, which has some of the most advanced and best enforced building energy codes in the country. Every dollar spent on code enforcement delivering a six dollar return in the form of lower household and business energy costs.
  • Cutting red tape: Many business and households face market barriers to adopting cost saving energy efficiency solutions. Clinton will provide challenge grants to states and cities that streamline permitting barriers, provide customers with time-of-use pricing and real-time price information, and ensure energy efficiency and demand response compete on a level playing field in electricity markets like Minnesota has begun to do through its E21 initiative and New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision
  • Business model innovation: Local utilities and state and city governments are developing innovative business models to overcome barriers to building efficiency and drive deployment of efficiency technologies like GreenMountain Power’s eHome program in Vermont and the Roanoke Electric Coop’s Upgrade to $ave program in North Carolina. Clinton will award challenge grants to scale up and replicate those models shown to be most effective.
  • Unlocking private capital: While efficiency investments often pay back in a couple of years or less, the upfront investment presents a significant hurdle for many homeowners and businesses. A number of states and cities have begun deploying innovative tools to unlock new sources of capital for efficiency investments, like Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs which in Florida have delivered tens of millions of dollars in savings to the state’s families and businesses. Clinton will award challenge grants to support the development and deployment of successful and equitable financing mechanisms.
  • Reducing low-income energy bills: Low-income households spend a larger share of their income on energy than the average American family and are particularly vulnerable to price spikes. Clinton will award challenge grants to states and cities that develop and implement verifiably cost-effective and scalable initiatives to reduce energy costs for low-income households such as Houston’s Residential Energy Efficiency Program.
  • Phase out heating oil over the long term: High cost and polluting fuel oil and propane are still used for home heating in much of the country. In New Hampshire, for example, nearly 70% of all families heat their homes with oil products. This not only makes household budgets vulnerable to price spikes but also contributes to local air pollution and increases US dependence on oil. Clinton will encourage the adoption of efficiency technologies to save families money and reduce pollution from oil-fueled home heating systems and award challenge grants to cities and states that replace oil-fueled residential and commercial boilers and furnaces with cleaner alternatives, such as New York City’s successful PlanNYC program.

Creating Jobs and Saving Money Through Better Schools, Hospitals and Public BUildings

Municipal buildings, universities, schools and hospitals, known as the “MUSH market”, account for nearly one third of non-residential building energy expenditures in the United States.  The cost of heating, cooling and powering these buildings is ultimately passed on to American taxpayers, students and healthcare consumers. Improving the energy efficiency of MUSH market buildings is not just financially responsible—it can improve public health and education outcomes and help states meet their carbon pollution targets under the Clean Power Plan.  Clinton will catalyze such improvements though Clean Energy Challenge grants and financing tools available through her national infrastructure bank, creating good-paying jobs and careers.

  • Saving taxpayers money through better public buildings: Clinton will build on the important progress made by the Obama Administration in improving the efficiency of the federal building fleet by expanding and deepening efficiency retrofits across the federal portfolio. Clinton will also provide challenge grants to state and local governments to improve efficiency of municipal buildings, and tools that expand private sector financing through her national infrastructure bank. This will save meaningful money for state and local governments because energy expenditures absorb up to 10% of municipal budgets today.
  • Cleaner and more effective schools: Primary and secondary schools spend $6 billion a year on energy, more than they spend on textbooks and technology combined. Modernizing our country’s school buildings will not only free up money to invest directly in our kids’ educations, but will even improve their cognitive function by reducing indoor air pollution. Clinton will prioritize such upgrades in awarding challenge grants and will engage students in identifying efficiency opportunities by extending her Clean Energy Challenge to the classroom.
  • Healthier hospital buildings: Hospitals are among the largest energy consumers in the country, consuming twice as much energy as do office buildings of comparable size—and patients are the ones who pick up the tab. A number of hospitals have addressed this through advanced building efficiency technology, such as the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. Clinton will encourage similar efficiency improvements in other hospitals through challenge grants and national infrastructure bank financing tools.
  • A more energy-efficient American workforce: A building only lives up to its efficiency potential if it is constructed and operated correctly. That’s why Clinton will support training programs, both through her apprenticeship tax credit and Clean Energy Challenge grants, for engineers, architects, construction trades, and other advanced building-related professions and where students can receive an industry-related certification to install energy efficient buildings technologies. Clinton will also improve the operational efficiency of commercial and multi-residential buildings by supporting building operator training programs like SEIU’s Green Supers program in New York and Green Janitors program in California.

Clinton’s plan for advanced buildings, and other parts of her Clean Energy Challenge, is one pillar of her comprehensive energy and climate agenda, which includes major initiatives in the following areas:

  1. Modernizing North American Infrastructure: Improve the safety and security of existing energy infrastructure and align new infrastructure we build with the clean energy economy we are seeking to create.
  2. Revitalizing Coal Communities: Protect the health and retirement security of coalfield workers and their families and provide economic opportunities for those that kept the lights on and factories running for more than a century.
  3. Safe and Responsible Production: Ensure that fossil fuel production taking place today is safe and responsible, that taxpayers get a fair deal for development on public lands, and that areas that are too sensitive for energy production are taken off the table.
  4. Energy and Climate Security: Reduce the amount of oil consumed in the United States and around the world, guard against energy supply disruptions, and make our communities, our infrastructure, and our financial markets more resilient to risks posed by climate change.
  5. Collaborative Stewardship:  Renew our shared commitment to the conservation of our disappearing lands, waters, and wildlife, to the preservation of our history and culture, and to expanding access to the outdoors for all Americans.