Last week, our legal intern Belle Harris spoke to the Houston City Council. Here's her testimony.
Hello, my name is Belle Harris and I’m a recent graduate of Rice University and a legal intern with Environment Texas, a non-profit advocate for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. I’m here today to ask you to adopt the 2021 Building Code, including an electric vehicle-ready provision.
With clean energy from the sun and wind, we have the technology to provide for our energy needs without the global consequences of pollution. Yet we’re still producing and consuming virtually all of our energy in ways that do lasting damage to our environment, our health and our climate. And to make matters worse, of all that dirty energy we produce, two-thirds of it ends up being wasted.
But the good news is that our energy use and its impacts on our planet are within our control. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that we can reduce our overall energy usage by 40 to 60 percent below current levels by midcentury, simply by using better technologies and eliminating waste across our economy. And an Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) analysis found that if all homes and businesses were to replace appliances and equipment reaching the end of their useful lives with the most efficient technologies, the U.S. could reduce electricity consumption by 13.9% through 2040.
Reducing energy use creates big savings—for our planet, our climate and our health. Better efficiency will clean up our air and help combat climate change and its pervasive threat to our future. As an added bonus, reducing energy consumption results in lower energy bills.
According to Texas A&M’s Energy Systems Laboratory, energy efficiency standards in building codes saved Texas consumers $8.6 billion in reduced electricity bills. It also reduced global warming pollution by more than 37 million tons in 2019. Reducing energy use also means less water needed to cool power plants. As a result of building codes, Texas is saving 867 million gallons of water each year.
Houston has set a bold goal to decarbonize. And the fastest and easiest way to achieve zero carbon is to reduce the amount of energy we need in the first place. The 2021 building codes will save 8-10% more energy than the 2015 codes.