Commercial building owners in Houston, Texas will be eligible to participate in a multi-million dollar incentive program aimed at improving the energy efficiency of the city’s buildings.
This fall, Houston will provide grant-like reimbursements of 20 percent of the labor and material costs of projects that increase a building’s energy efficiency by at least 15 percent, with a cap of $200,000 per building, said Laura Spanjian, the city’s director of sustainability.
Funding for the incentive program will come from the $23 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant that the city was awarded last year from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the federal government’s nationwide stimulus package.
Since the city has already spent much of the block grant on saving energy at 21 city-owned buildings and some affordable housing units, and since the city’s larger commercial property owners — who have access to bank financing and existing federal incentive programs — are already in the process of improving the energy efficiency of their buildings, the incentive program will emphasize projects that retrofit older and smaller buildings.
At least half of the program’s rebate awards will be set aside for Class B and C buildings, and at least 60 percent of the awards will be reserved for projects under $500,000.
Because owners of smaller buildings may not have the staff or resources to tackle significant energy efficiency projects, the city hopes its rebate will be enough incentive for small building owners to upgrade and start saving energy now.
Applicants for the city grant are required to have an energy audit conducted on their property by a certified expert, and those planning to finance their energy efficiency upgrades with a bank loan must prequalify before submitting grant applications.
Once energy efficiency work is completed and approved by the city, the city will reimburse the building owner for 20 percent of the cost of the project, up to $200,000.
Under the terms of the federal block grant, funds for the city’s energy efficiency incentive program must be spent this fall.
“City Will Help Building Owners Get Green,” The Houston Chronicle, Jan. 6, 2011.