This page last reviewed May 2, 2013

Existing Building Retrofits

Since 1978, new buildings in California have been required to implement increasingly stringent energy efficiency measures, saving home and business owners over $56 billion in energy costs.  Until recently, there has been no requirement to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings.  More than 75% of California's existing homes and commercial buildings were built before the building standards code.  These older buildings offer a large and cost effective opportunity to reduce energy use, cost, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.  Based on the California Energy Commission’s analysis, 15 to 18 percent of 2005 statewide electricity and natural gas energy consumption could be saved by making improvements to existing structures.

The Scoping Plan aims to achieve 20 MMTCO2e of greenhouse gas emission reductions from making existing structures more energy efficient.  Work to improve building energy efficiency is especially good for the local economy.  This work, referred to as “retrofitting”, generates local construction employment, supports retailers who provide needed services and materials, and keeps more dollars circulating in the local economy.
There are three state agencies with primary authority to assist with improving the energy efficiency  of existing buildings. The California Public Utilities Commission, Department of Community Services  and Development, and the California Energy Commission oversee and implement energy efficiency programs.  Please see below for more detailed information.

California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)

CPUC regulates electricity and natural gas investor-owned utilities operating in California.  These include Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, and Southern California Gas Company. Collectively, the first three companies serve over two-thirds of the total electricity demand throughout California.

The CPUC requires investor-owned utilities to provide incentives for energy retrofits.  The long-term goal, by 2020, is to achieve a 40 percent reduction in energy demand by installing energy efficiency improvements in both single and multifamily residences they serve.

Department of Community Services and Development (CSD)

CSD delivers about 50,000 home energy retrofits throughout California to low income households annually. CSD works with a network of more than 100 agencies throughout California that provide services and programs directly in the community.

Two CSD-run programs, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) are coordinated to provide energy efficiency services to homeowners and renters who qualify.

Between 2010 and the end of 2012, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided CSD with $185.8 million to boost the typical $5 million annual budget for low income energy efficiency home improvements.   This additional funding was able to serve nearly 60,000 low-income homes, saving them money, increasing home value and improving health and comfort.  

California Energy Commission (CEC)

In October 2009, Assembly Bill 758 was signed into law requiring the CEC to implement a comprehensive energy efficiency retrofit program for existing commercial and residential buildings.  CEC was required to develop and implement a comprehensive program to achieve greater energy savings in existing residential and nonresidential building stock, including energy assessments, cost-effective energy efficiency improvements, financing options, public outreach, and education efforts.

Between 2010 and 2012, CEC initiated the first phase of the program for infrastructure development and completion of an implementation plan.  Beginning in 2012, the second phase of the program was initiated to begin market development of the existing building rating systems and further expansion of partnerships.  CEC plans to begin the third phase to require building ratings and upgrades starting in 2014.  You can find additional information on the CEC’s building energy efficiency existing building programs website.

For questions or comments, please contact: Dana Papke Waters at (916) 324-9615