October 12, 2009
With nearly 2.2 million new homes likely to be built in Texas in the next twenty years, a new report finds that building these homes with energy-efficient technology and solar energy systems would reduce homeowners’ energy bills by $5.4 billion—a net savings of $480 per household per year.
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center’s report, Building for a Clean Energy Future, also demonstrated that homes with energy efficient and solar technologies would cut pollution and save water.
“Everyone knows solar panels and energy saving measures in the home are good for the environment. Our report shows that they are also good for the pocketbook,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas “And net-zero energy homes, which combine energy efficiency, clean energy like solar panels, and common sense design aren’t something out of the Jetsons, they’re already available right here in Texas.”
Texas is already home to several “net-zero energy” homes, or solar homes which are so efficient that, over the course of the year, they produce as much energy as they use. In east Austin, Architecture firm KRDB is currently building the first neighborhood in Texas comprised entirely of these homes.
“Our goal with the Sol (Solutions Oriented Living) Project, is to propose a model of sustainable development that provides well designed, affordable homes in Central Austin that significantly reduce a homeowner’s energy consumption, which in turn, reduces their expenses, as well as their carbon footprint,” said Chris Krager, a KRDB architect and developer of the project. “The first step is increasing the efficiency of the building through good design. At 45% the projected energy consumption of a typical home, in addition to a very aggressive rebate program through Austin Energy, the implementation of solar PV’s becomes financially viable. The project also goes beyond the envelope of the home, to include reduced environmental impact via reduced water consumption (efficient fixtures and low-impact landscape) and proximity to existing infrastructure (schools, public transit, downtown).”
The report finds that increasing the construction of net-zero energy homes over the next decade such that, by 2020, all new homes met the standard, would contribute significant environmental and economic benefits to the state. The report finds that by 2030, Texas would:
The Austin metropolitan area would save 2.38 billion kilowatt hours per year in 2030, avoiding the need for 333 megawatts of electricity. Homeowners would save $515 million per year on their energy bills.
Two Texas agencies are currently considering rules to help promote solar power and energy efficiency. First, Comptroller Susan Combs and the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) are expected to decide this fall whether to adopt the latest efficiency standards for new homes. The standards would require new homes to be approximately 15% more energy efficient than currently required. Environment Texas Research and Policy Center urged SECO to adopt the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code and require homebuilders to comply within one year of adoption.
Second, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas will soon consider new requirements on Texas electric companies to provide incentives for homeowners for solar power and energy efficiency. Current law requires electric utilities to offset part of the growth in electric demand with energy efficiency programs, including rebates for “Energy Star” homes. The group also urged the PUC to create a statewide solar rebate program and to increase spending on energy efficiency by 150%.
“Policies encouraging zero energy homes will help keep electric bills affordable while also transitioning Texas to a cleaner energy future,” said Senator Kirk Watson.”The state must do more to expand renewable energy and energy efficiency in the most prudent and affordable way.”
The Solar Decathalon is currently underway in Washington D.C. as 20 teams from universities around the world compete with their solar home designs.
In Related News…
A house on the Florida State University campus is testing a combined solar-hydrogen power system. Excess power from roof-mounted solar modules is used to create hydrogen, which then powers the house after sunset. Read more at the link below.