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Scores, labels and ratings are a regular part of how we communicate information. We consult miles-per-gallon ratings on cars, nutrition labels on food, and Energy Guide labels on appliances to make informed consumer decisions. However, consumer labeling for homes is inconsistent and unavailable in most real estate markets.
Of Portland’s 160,000 single-family homes, less than two percent have an energy score.
The commercial buildings market has been quicker to adopt benchmarking practices. In 2015, Portland City Council adopted mandatory energy benchmarking and disclosure for large commercial buildings. By April 2017, 80 percent of Portland's commercial building square footage will be reporting energy performance. The proposed Home Energy Score Ordinance is a companion to the commercial policy.
In 2009, the Oregon Legislature established a voluntary framework for home energy scoring. In 2013, additional legislation created licensing and training for certified professionals who can assess homes and produce scores. In 2015, these contractors delivered about 600 home energy scores to homeowners in Portland, mostly through programs offered by Energy Trust of Oregon and Enhabit (formerly Clean Energy Works). The average cost of a home energy score is $150 to $250.
Voluntary efforts to date are a step in the right direction; however, we cannot achieve the 2015 Climate Action Plan goal to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 unless we significantly accelerate energy efficiency and renewable energy activities in the residential sector. Residential buildings contribute nearly half of the emissions from buildings.
Local government plays a critical role in making it easier for people to save energy, protect against rising energy prices in the future and reduce carbon pollution. Requiring home energy scores is one of the policy tools the City has available to catalyze change in the residential sector.
Home energy scores are a market-based solution for conveying previously unknown but critical information to both buyers and sellers of homes. When homeowners invest in improving the energy efficiency of their homes, those costs may be recouped as scores translate into a value that can be recognized by the market. A recent analysis that included over 20 studies worldwide of homes with green certifications demonstrated that green-certified homes sell for up to four percent higher than a comparable home.
Beyond lower energy bills and greater housing affordability, energy-efficient homes are more comfortable and livable. The indoor air quality of these homes is better, leading to healthier lives. Home energy scores afford consumers a measure of protection when making one of the biggest financial investments most people ever make.