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Evaluation of Building Policies, Programs, and Potential for Energy Efficiency in the United States

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posted on 11.10.2019 by Oluwatobi Adekanye
In the United States, buildings i.e. both residential and commercial are responsible for about 40% of total U.S. energy consumption, and as a result, a large amount of greenhouse gas and criteria air pollutants. Energy efficiency has been identified as a low-cost resource of reducing energy use and hence the carbon footprint in the buildings sector. As a result, a myriad of policy actions has been put in place to ensure that energy reduction goals can be achieved through energy efficiency. This dissertation performs a critical examination of some of these programs and policies that have been put in place with the aim of
ensuring that their intended efforts are indeed achieved. This work also provides a prospective look into other considerations e.g. the inclusion of broader health and environmental benefits needed to be made when making the decision about building energy efficiency. In Chapter 2, I use a panel data approach to measure the association of policy implementation at different levels of the government with increases in green building adoption. I find that the effectiveness of green building policies is dependent on both the nature of the policy as well as the background federal policy context. I corroborate existing research by finding that local policies especially requirement and density
bonuses are essential in driving green building certification. I also highlight the importance of federal policies (e.g. federal funding like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – ARRA) and private actions (e.g. through improvements to the building rating system process) in driving green building
adoption. These findings highlight that local policy, federal policy, and private actions need to work in tandem to drive green building growth. In Chapter 3, I explore a similar line of questioning, however, focusing on the associations of different energy efficiency programs with reductions in electricity and gas usage. Using the difference-indifference
and event history modeling approaches, I find that behavioral programs are associated with the largest increases in energy reductions even when compared to financial incentive programs. I also provide a means of detecting unexpected program impacts (i.e. changes that occur at the same time as the introduction of a new technology leading to biased estimates of program impacts) using electricity and
gas usage data. I find gas reductions for some electricity-only programs thereby indicating that energy
reductions may have occurred in the absence of the program. I highlight here that energy efficiency
programs have the potential to significantly reduce electricity and gas use in buildings. However, the expost evaluation of these programs need to be appropriately measured to ensure that these reductions are indeed associated with policy implementation as significant amounts of money and time is invested in program implementation. While Chapters 2 and 3 focus on the evaluation of past energy efficiency programs and policies, in Chapter 4, I focus on other considerations that need to be made when making the decision about building energy efficiency. Specifically, I focus on the incorporation of other health and climate impacts when addressing the issue of climate change in the building sector. I investigate the energy reductions,
greenhouse gas and other air emission reductions, as well as the private net costs and benefits of implementing a myriad of energy efficiency measures using the case study of the state of Pennsylvania. I find significant energy reductions compared to 2017 baseline levels - 36%, 44%, 19%, and 43% reductions of electricity, gas, propane, and fuel oil. More importantly, I estimate significant social benefits of $2.4billion per year and highlight the energy efficiency measures which maximize both the
private and social benefits for the state. In Chapter 5, I discuss overarching conclusions and some considerations for policy revealed in Chapters 2 to 4. Findings in Chapters 2 and 3, for example, show the benefits of non-economic programs and incentives in driving building energy efficiency. I corroborate the nascent research on behavioral
programs on energy reductions and recommend that utility evaluators examine non-financial program and policy approaches to reducing energy use as it also offers a low-cost alternative to promoting energy use reductions. More specifically, In Chapter 2, I learn that policy actors i.e. local and federal policy makers, as well as private bodies, need to work together in driving green building adoption. However, highlighted is the need for more transparency in ensuring that green building certifications are indeed translating to
energy reductions. In Chapter 3, I learn the importance of more robust analyses when using data-driven approaches in the energy measurement and verification process of energy efficiency programs. In Chapter 4, I find that energy efficiency measures which yield the highest private benefits may not necessarily yield the highest social benefits therefore highlighting the need for a more holistic look when making the decision between competing energy efficiency measures.




Degree Type



Engineering and Public Policy

Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Alex Davis Inês Azevedo