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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

For Immediate Release
October 30, 2008

Comptroller Susan Combs Recommends Home Energy Ratings
to Increase Energy Efficiency

(AUSTIN) — If every single-family home in Texas increased its energy efficiency by 20 percent, the energy savings would add up to more than $13.7 billion over seven years. A single household could potentially save $1,791 to $2,507 on electricity bills over that period, and with 87 percent of Texas’ 6.3 million homes valued at $200,000 or less, this efficiency gain represents significant savings to most Texas families.

A new report by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says significant energy savings are possible if consumers are armed with credible, understandable energy efficiency information when buying a home or considering home energy upgrades.

“When you shop for a car, you can look at the gas mileage rating,” Combs said. “There is no widely used energy rating system for homes.”

Energy evaluation systems, home energy ratings and mortgage programs allowing buyers to roll the cost of energy improvements into their home loans have existed for years, but the public is largely unaware of them. Requiring mandatory energy ratings on millions of homes would be difficult to implement. Instead, Combs’ report advocates consumer education and a voluntary energy rating system.

“As energy costs increase, and as concerns for national energy security and the environment heighten, consumer awareness is changing,” Combs said. “With relevant, accurate information, the power to save energy is in the hands of the consumer. And if consumers want energy efficient homes, the marketplace will respond.”

Texas A&M University is developing an online ratings tool for consumers who want to gain greater control over soaring utility bills and those who are in the market for a new home. The tool will generate an accurate energy efficiency rating for any home when the consumer enters key information about the home’s energy usage, heating and cooling systems and other features. The online tool will show consumers whether their home or other dwellings are as energy efficient as they could be. When the new system is available in spring 2009, Texans will be able to access it on the Comptroller’s State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) Web site at www.seco.cpa.state.tx.us. The SECO Web site now has a new look and more energy conservation information and tips. Residential consumers, government agencies, businesses and schools can find practical ideas to conserve energy as well as incentives and funding sources for projects to reduce energy costs and maximize efficiency.

The average annual electricity bill for Texas homes is 45 percent higher than in neighboring states and 56 percent higher than the national average. Our per capita residential energy consumption is also the highest in the nation, due to air conditioning demand and greater use of electricity for home heating than in other states.

“Access to reliable, affordable energy is critical to serve Texas’ growing population and to ensure continued economic growth,” Combs said. “Texas leads the nation in energy production, and we can lead the nation in maximizing that potential through energy efficiency.”

The 80th Legislature passed a bill by Rep. Mark Strama requiring SECO to conduct a comprehensive study to identify potential methods for providing home energy efficiency information to Texas consumers. An advisory committee of state and local government representatives, homebuilders, building code officials, utility companies, real estate agents and mortgage lenders participated in the study.

The Home Energy Efficiency Report (2.5 MB) is available on the Comptroller’s Web site at www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/hb3070/96-1350_Home_Energy_Eff_HB3070.pdf.

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