Houston Sets the Energy Efficiency Bar

Two new energy efficiency rules could soon become law in Texas. As Laurie Johnson reports — one of the rules would require the rest of the state to follow the example already set by Houston.

Residential and commercial buildings use 40 percent of all energy consumed in America.

Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger says the State Energy Conservation Office could soon require new homes and buildings be 15 percent more efficient than current standards.

"The draft proposal would be that by January 1, 2012 all new buildings would have to basically do what Houston's already doing. So in this area then, the City of Houston already requires these codes. Now the entire metropolitan area would have to do what Houston's doing and the entire state would have to do what Houston's doing."

Because heat is the biggest energy factor in Texas, it's also the biggest area where improvements can be made.

Julie Hendricks with the U.S. Green Building Council says developers can do things like use light-colored roofing material, put more insulation in exterior walls and install Energy Star appliances.

"We don't have to invent any brand new fancy technologies. We don't have to wait for a new coal plant to get built, which takes years. We can start saving energy right now."

The second state rule could go into effect in 2015. The Public Utility Commission has issued a draft which would require utility companies to increase their investment in efficiency programs.

Right now, electricity providers are required to invest about $100 million a year statewide in efficiency. The new rule would require a $250 million investment.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...