Residential Energy Retrofits: An Untapped Resource Right At Home 

The following is an excerpt from a policy analysis paper written by FAS's Todd Gerarden. Read the full paper HERE.

To face the complex and ambitious challenges of climate change, policymakers must use every available tool to mitigate harmful emissions. Homeowners and industry must come together to capitalize on opportunities for increased energy efficiency in existing buildings, which hold enormous potential for reducing energy consumption. However, current and proposed climate change policies focus primarily on setting minimum standards for new homes through building codes. The scope of energy use under consideration by cap-and-trade or carbon taxation schemes complicates inclusion of residential buildings: the emissions from one residence cannot serve as a commodity in the same market as electricity generating facilities. Retrofitting operations supported by utilities and included in emissions reduction mechanisms are a critical solution to the problems of energy consumption, cost, and emissions.


A system of residential energy efficiency improvements, analyzed in this paper, would enable costeffective mprovements financed by homeowners and utilities. Utilities would provide energy auditing ervices to establish the level of retrofit measures appropriate for homeowner and utility investment. Utilities are ideally situated to play a large role in retrofitting by providing low-cost energy auditing ools, up-to-date energy cost  summaries, performance data on retrofit options, and bulk purchase rates or improvements. In addition, utilities have a vested interest in retrofitting residences for energy efficiency because these improvements help utilities cope with rising demand and diminish the need for new plant construction. In order to improve residential energy efficiency and implement this policy, policymakers should consider the following recommendations:

  • Climate change policy must include provisions to account for the environmental costs of inefficiency in existing residential buildings.
  • National policymakers should help state public utility commissions decouple sales volume from profits, in turn providing uniform national promotion of energy efficiency.
  • National policymakers should facilitate the implementation of a system of cooperative investment by homeowners and utilities in household retrofits to improve residential energy efficiency.
Read the full paper here.