Welcome to the California Energy Commission

Background Information
2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards

The Warren-Alquist Act, enacted in 1976, mandated that the Energy Commission create and periodically update Building Energy Efficiency Standards for the state of California. These Standards address newly constructed buildings and additions and alterations to existing buildings. The Standards have, in combination with appliance efficiency standards and utility-sponsored incentive programs, strongly contributed to California's per capita electricity consumption levels remaining relatively flat since the mid-1970s. First adopted in 1977, the Standards have been periodically updated approximately on a three-year cycle. The most recent update, the 2008 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, went into effect on January 1, 2010.

The Energy Commission is now beginning the proceeding to update the 2008 Standards. The upgraded Standards are planned to go into effect in conjunction with the triennial upgrade of the other parts of the California Building Standards Code, and be published as the 2013 California Energy Code. The updated Standards will improve upon the 2008 Standards and will implement the following state energy policy directives:

  • The 2003 Energy Action Plan (EAP) established California's "loading order" policy for prioritizing energy resources to address the State's growing energy demands. Energy efficiency is the highest priority in the loading order, followed by demand response, and then electricity generation from renewable energy resources.
  • The Energy Commission's 2009 Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) continues to emphasize the role of building energy efficiency in meeting California's climate change mandates to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. Energy efficiency is identified as the first strategy for accomplishing GHG reduction targets because it is the least cost, most environmentally sensitive and expeditious approach to reduce the contribution to climate change in the building sector, which is second only to on-road vehicles in statewide GHG emissions. The IEPR recommends that a statewide efficiency target be set at 100 percent of economic potential. The report concludes that for the Standards to reach the aggressive goals in the state's energy and climate change policy reports and initiatives, and the GHG emission reduction mandates in legislation, vigorous energy efficiency coupled with technologies like solar photovoltaic systems will have to be accomplished.
  • The 2007 Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) established the goal that new building standards achieve "net zero energy" levels by 2020 for residences and by 2030 for commercial buildings. A net zero energy building consumes only as much energy on an annual basis as can be generated with an on-site renewable energy system. The Energy Commission has begun a path toward a tiered approach to achieve zero net energy in future building standards. The base tier will be the traditional mandatory standard that increases in stringency with every code cycle. Additional tiers will be voluntary and represent a "reach" standard for advanced levels of energy efficiency. The intent of the advanced, voluntary tiers is to provide the industry and marketplace with a framework for differentiating highly energy-efficient buildings from standard buildings and to pilot these enhanced features in the field to see how well they work before determining which of the measures should be included in future mandatory standards. This proceeding will be the first standards update cycle where mandatory and reach levels of standards will be developed in parallel.
  • A 2005 Governor's Executive Order and 2006 statute establish GHG reduction goals and mandates for California. The Climate Action Initiative (Executive Order S-3-05, June 2005) set the following GHG emission reduction targets for California: by 2020, reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels, and by 2050, reduce GHG emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels. The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32, Núñez, Stats. 2006, Ch. 488 [AB 32]) codified the 2020 GHG emission reduction target into law. Effective Building Standards are an important tool for the state to achieve its GHG goals.
  • The Green Building Standards Code first published in July 2008 and updated for publication in 2010, codifies voluntary "reach" standards for energy efficiency, as compared with the mandatory Standards, for newly constructed residential and nonresidential buildings. (See 24 Cal. Code Regs, Part 11.) The Green Building Standards Code established tiered energy performance levels of 15 percent and 30 percent more stringent than the mandatory 2008 Standards. Local jurisdictions may adopt the Green Building Standards Code as mandatory at the local level. Local jurisdictions may also adopt privately developed green building standards that are at least as stringent as the Building Energy Efficiency Standards and the Green Building Standards Code mandatory provisions. The energy provisions of these locally adopted green building standards are required to be approved by the Energy Commission to ensure that they actually are more stringent than the Standards and that the local government has adopted a cost effectiveness analysis for the green building standards through a public process. In approving these local energy and green building ordinances, the Commission seeks a written commitment on the part of the local government to actively encourage compliance with and enforce both the state mandatory standards and the energy and green building codes.
  • The California Public Utility Commission's (CPUC) California Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, dated July 2008, endorses the Energy Commission's zero net energy goals for all newly constructed homes by 2020 and for all newly constructed commercial buildings by 2030. The California Investor Owned Utilities authored the Plan under the direction of the CPUC, and these utilities are now implementing public goods-funded incentive programs for the 2009-2012 program period that support the implementation of this strategic plan.
  • The ARB Climate Change Scoping Plan also identifies strategies to achieve the 2020 GHG emissions limits. Those strategies include zero net energy buildings; more stringent building codes and appliance efficiency standards; broader standards for new types of appliances and for water efficiency; improved compliance and enforcement of existing standards; and voluntary efficiency and green building targets beyond mandatory codes.
  • The Green Building Standards Code, ARB's Climate Change Scoping Plan and the CPUC's Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan all include the concept of a tiered approach to implementing energy efficiency in newly constructed buildings. This concept has been successfully implemented in the New Solar Home Partnership and the California Solar Initiative, where either a Tier I (15%) or a Tier II (30%) level of energy efficiency beyond mandatory code levels is required before an incentive can be received for the installation of a solar electric system. The Energy Commission intends to carry this concept further in the upcoming update to the Standards by developing, in parallel, both mandatory and voluntary (or "reach") energy efficiency code requirements.
  • Assembly Bill 1109 (Huffman, Stats. 2007, Ch. 534) requires the Energy Commission to adopt minimum energy efficiency standards for all general purpose lights by the end of 2008. The Energy Commission adopted such standards on December 3, 2008. The legislation includes requirements to reduce average statewide electrical energy consumption by 2018 for indoor residential lighting by not less than 50 percent and for indoor commercial and outdoor lighting by not less than 25 percent compared to 2007 levels. The Energy Commission has taken a number of initial steps toward these requirements, including the adoption of the 2008 Title 20 Appliance Energy Efficiency Regulations and the 2008 Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards. The Commission expects a number of additional efforts will be needed to make further progress to reach the requirements in AB 1109. These are likely to include updates to the Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, additional Title 20 Appliance Energy Efficiency Regulations (including moving the lighting control regulations from Title 24 to Title 20 - see www.energy.ca.gov/appliances/battery_chargers/ for more information), federal lighting standards, as well as other strategies, such as utility rebates, customer education, and active support from the lighting industry.
  • Assembly Bill 1560 (Huffman, Stats. 2007, Ch. 532) requires the Energy Commission to prescribe, by regulation, water efficiency and conservation standards for newly constructed residential and non-residential buildings, to reduce the wasteful, uneconomic, inefficient or unnecessary consumption of energy, including the energy associated with the use of water.