Energy efficiency policies and programs can help drive the implementation of projects that minimize or reduce energy use during the operation of a system or machine and/or production of a good or service. Resources related to different types of energy efficiency policies and programs are available below.

Appliance Standards

The federal government, and some states, have established minimum efficiency standards for certain appliances and equipment, such as refrigerators and clothes washers. Standards may require products adhere to a certain maximum allowable energy consumption or dictate that a product contain particular features or devices. Alternatively, standards may require an average efficiency across all models of a product, which allows for a mix of less-efficient and more-efficient models.

Building Codes

Some commercial and/or residential construction codes mandate certain energy performance requirements for the design, materials, and equipment used in new construction and renovations. State-wide minimum codes may be amended by local jurisdictions to be more stringent if energy performance requirements are lacking or liberal.

Commissioning and Retro-Commissioning

To ensure a new building's systems are correctly installed and are operating properly, a commissioning program may be incorporated into all building phases, including design, construction, and operations. Likewise, a retro-commissioning process is used for identifying and improving less-than-optimal energy performance in an existing building's equipment and control systems. State and local governments can use retro-commissioning as a component in energy efficiency programs for their own facilities and can also create programs and policies that encourage or require retro-commissioning in privately owned buildings. 

Decoupling and Utility Business Models

Energy efficiency measures result in decreased energy use, which may be contrary to a utility's business mode that involves increasing revenue through increased energy demand. Decoupling is a rate adjustment mechanism that breaks the link between the amount of energy a utility sells and the revenue it collects to recover the fixed costs of providing service to customers. This ensures that the utility’s revenue from fixed costs remains at the level regulators determine to be fair and reasonable, providing a fair return on investment to the utility and a fair rate to the customer.

Resource: Decoupling Policies: Options to Encourage Energy Efficiency Policies for Utilities

Education and Behavior Modification

Educating state and local government employees and their citizens about modifying behavior in favor of conserving and following more energy-efficient practices represents an important element of a government's efforts to encourage a more energy efficient society and the benefits it provides to the public.

Energy Benchmarking and Disclosure

Energy benchmarking and disclosure is a market-based policy tool used to increase building energy performance awareness and transparency among key stakeholders and create demand for energy efficiency improvements. Such improvements may be offered through voluntary programs or take the form of mandated policies for private and/or public sector buildings. This policy tool represents an effort by policymakers to overcome barriers that prevent the commercial real estate marketplace and public sector institutions from identifying and valuing the energy efficiency of existing buildings. 

Resource: Commercial Energy Policy Toolkit: Benchmarking and Disclosure

Energy Efficiency Resource Standards

Energy efficiency resource standards (EERS) mandate a quantified energy efficiency goal for an energy provider or jurisdiction within a predetermined timeframe. The standards may encourage more efficient energy use or generation, may include a demand-side management program, and may be coupled with a state's renewable portfolio standard.

Financial Incentives and Programs

State and local financial incentives and programs help building owners execute energy efficiency projects by lowering cost burdens through public benefits funds, grants, loans, or property-assessed clean energy financing; personal, corporate, property, and sales tax incentives; or assistance with permitting fee reduction or elimination. 

Resource: Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE)


State and local governments can lead-by-example by promoting energy efficiency programs and policies for public facilities, equipment, and government operations through energy data management and evaluation, energy efficiency building standards for public buildings, enacting retrofit programs for existing public buildings, procuring energy-efficient appliances and equipment (including vehicles), and establishing energy efficiency operations and maintenance procedures. 

Industry Outreach and Coalitions

Involving the industrial sector in energy efficiency programs can assist jurisdictions in reaching energy reduction goals. Industry outreach programs may involve encouraging and supporting implementation of energy efficiency programs at commercial enterprises as well as the adoption of energy efficiency technologies in the production process and final goods.

Strategic Energy Management and Continuous Improvement

A successful strategic energy management plan sets goals, tracks progress, and reports results while building long-term relationships with energy users and targeting persistent energy savings. Effective planning ensures continuous improvement of energy efficiency, increases the property value of buildings, and can reduce costs across many end uses.

Zoning and Permitting

Zoning and permitting is commonly controlled by local governments and may be applicable to both residential and commercial properties. However, the state may regulate the scope of local zoning laws. For example, some states have passed laws limiting the ability of local governments to prohibit or unreasonably regulate the installation and operation of renewable energy systems. Zoning laws may also be structured to encourage energy-efficient buildings. For example, floor area ratio bonuses may be provided for buildings that meet certain energy efficiency criteria.