Text by: Yvonne Chan /Senior Program Coordinator of DEF

According to the latest report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the energy use of the building sector accounted for 31% of the global energy consumption, higher than that of the industrial and transportation sectors (29% each).

Since Trump took office, many local and state governments have mobilized against the central government. They not only have different ideas in terms of policy planning, but also propose further climate commitments, advocating climate targets such as carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy. The building sector, which has the highest energy consumption in the world, is often the number one target for remediation.

Disclose energy consumption information, laying the foundation for saving energy
How can the building sector get rid of the title, “energy-consuming” giant? The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) believes that “Energy Benchmarking policy” is the first step that we need to make together, which requires disclosure of energy consumption information by large buildings (e.g. public buildings, commercial buildings, congregate housings) to help the government establish more appropriate statutory energy-efficiency standards, and grasp information on building electricity consumption and energy usage.

Model cities such as Chicago, Seattle and New York, request buildings with floor area exceeding 20,000 - 50,000 square feet (approximately the size of 4-10 standard basketball courts) to report their annual energy consumption, which will then be compiled and published by the city governments.

In order to urge buildings to truthfully report their energy information, the governments adopt the carrot and stick approach. The local power and water companies are engaged to assist building owners in disclosing energy information free of charge and creating the customized energy- and water-saving programs for different buildings. At the same time, the governments also establish a set of punishment measures, which fine offenders based on the degree of non-compliance or incompleteness of data submitted. A few years after implementing the policies, 85-99% of the buildings being managed abide by the rules at present, and the greenhouse gas emission of these three cities has decreased by 4.8-19%, and their energy consumption reduced by 3.7-10%.

Energy conservation relies on disclosure of household electricity consumption
However, besides commercial buildings, buildings also comprise of general residential buildings. As such, due to the local conditions of different cities, policies such as “bill disclosure”, “housing evaluation”, and “home energy-saving features” are adopted based on local Privacy Act and public acceptance, so that consumers can learn about its energy usage, energy cost and efficiency before making a decision about real estate transaction.

Firstly, as the name suggests, “bill disclosure” is to make public your home electricity bill. Such policies are common in Chicago, Hawaii and New York. “Housing evaluation” is a simple and clear scoring system for comparison of residential energy efficiency, carbon footprint, etc.; while “home energy-saving features” carry out evaluation in terms of house structure and equipment, and identify the building’s energy-efficiency technologies, characteristics and areas for improvement.

For example, Portland specially selected the relatively easy-to-understand “Home Energy Score” to evaluate housing energy efficiency and carbon footprint because the disclosure system is very user-friendly. In just nine months after implementing the policies, up to 7000 residential buildings have made public disclosure. Berkeley, which has also adopted the “Home Energy Score” system, requests households to enclose “home energy-saving features” on top of information disclosure, so that information on energy-saving structure and facilities of the houses can be easily available in the market.

Portland’s Home Energy Score template discloses information on energy-efficiency score, carbon footprint, energy consumption, etc.

Looking back at the situation of Taiwan, green buildings have become a trend in recent years. Statistics shows that as at end of September 2018, 7375 building projects in Taiwan had applied and obtained the green building label. In a recent international conference hosted by the Ministry of the Interior, an official claimed that Taiwan has the highest density of green buildings in the world at present.
Unfortunately, these green buildings are mostly new buildings. Taiwan still needs to make greater effort to increase energy efficiency for a large number of existing private buildings hidden in the country, increasing the incentives for their owners to carry out energy-saving home improvements, and making the big step in public buildings’ energy consumption disclosure.