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EPA’s Proposed Pule on Power Plants: An Opportunity for Energy Efficiency policy?

By Andrew Goldberg, Assoc. AIA, Managing Director, Government Relations & Outreach

    Earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a proposed rule that would require states to cut carbon emissions from power plants by as much as 30 percent by 2030. A key part of this plan would allow states to find ways to meet the targets outside of the power plant operation through improving energy efficiency and promoting renewable energy statewide.

    Environmentalists cheered the proposed rule (although some said it did not go far enough). The fossil fuel industry criticized it sharply as a business-killer. The rule is likely to be challenged in court, but if it stands it will represent one of the most significant changes in energy policy in decades.

    Regardless of the politics surrounding the proposed rule, what will be the impact on architects?

    Let’s look at the numbers: The building sector accounts for over 70% of electricity use and about 40% of total energy use in the United States. It stands to reason that the building sector would be a good starting point for state policymakers looking for achievable gains in efficiency. In fact, many states have passed initiatives to promote energy efficiency with the AIA’s support, including Property Assessed Clean Energy, an innovative financing tool for building energy efficiency upgrades now legal in 31 states, and energy benchmarking and disclosure policies, which have been adopted for commercial buildings in 10 cities and two states. (Learn what states are doing to promote energy efficiency.)

    AIA architects have long advocated that the easiest way to cut energy costs in buildings is to use less energy, and a well-designed energy efficient building does just that. The AIA has led the effort with its allies to establish bold and easily implementable green building codes like the International Green Construction Code at the ready, which can be put in place to reduce states’ energy usage almost immediately. And through its 2030 Firm Commitment and other programs, the AIA has empowered its more than 83,000 members to not only advise state officials on best practices in energy efficiency, but also design buildings that meet the state’s goals.

    Architects will have two opportunities to help shape this policy change: the first is in providing public comments to the EPA on its rule. The AIA is currently analyzing the rule and will make comments to the EPA.

    Second, AIA members are well-positioned to help states craft policies that not only meet the EPA’s goals, but improve the built environment overall. No matter how the debate over the EPA’s climate rules plays out, architects cannot risk sitting out of the process. With all of the competing interests in the energy efficiency leagues, the worst outcome would be a state-level regulatory picture that leaves architects on the sidelines.

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This content is published by the AIA Government and Community Relations Department, 1735 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20006. To contact the AIA’s Government & Community Relations team, send an email to


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