State and Local Building Efficiency Regulations & Policies: Texas

In this series, we’re exploring state and local building efficiency regulations to give you a bird’s-eye view of the policies that may impact your portfolio.

Texas, the second-largest state in the US by both area and population, has warmed between 0.5 to one degree (F) in the past century.1 The last 20 years have also brought intense weather events that have left Texas’s power grid increasingly susceptible to failure, ranging from extreme heat to the recent and catastrophic deep freeze that took place in January 2021. 

While the deregulated energy market in Texas often provides lower-cost housing, cheaper electricity, and lower taxes, Texas’s complex grid is not designed to handle the extreme weather-related events ushered in by climate change. Power providers supply electricity to customers, but are not legally required to do so – and don’t face penalties when they fail to deliver service during an emergency. 

A similar deregulated philosophy seems to cross over to the demand side as well. While Texas has expansive voluntary and incentive programs to encourage building owners to track, monitor, and reduce their energy demand from the grid, there is less mandatory regulation than one might expect in such a populous state. Beyond requiring buildings to meet the 2015 IECC’s building code standards for new construction, and mandating energy benchmarking and auditing for all municipal buildings, the Lone Star State hasn’t taken some of the next steps to enhance building efficiency. Some of the major cities in Texas have, however, gone a bit further.  Fort Worth and San Antonio have voluntary energy benchmarking programs, and Austin requires almost all building owners to benchmark, audit, and report efficiency scores to prospective buyers.  Houston is also a participant in the Better Buildings Initiative

Overall, Texas has taken a more “hands-off” approach and relies heavily on broad participation in voluntary reporting and local incentive programs.  

Learn more about how Aquicore makes it easy to collect the energy data needed to comply with local, city, and state benchmarking regulations.

We’ve compiled the key building energy requirements, policies, and plans for Texas. For more information on voluntary incentive programs across the state, please see the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency

State / City / CountyNameType of Regulation / Policy / InitiativeDescriptionEffective Date
Texas4 Tex. Gov. Code §447.009 (c) and (e)Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)State law directs each state agency and institution of higher education to set percentage goals for reducing its usage of water, electricity, gasoline, and natural gas. These goals are to be included in a comprehensive energy and water management plan (EWMP).Provisions adopted in 2002, Amended in 2016
Texas4 Tex. Gov. Code §447.009 (c) and (e)Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)State agency and higher education buildings must track and report their annual energy and water use using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool.2007
TexasTexas Health and Safety Code §388.005(c)Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)Each political subdivision, institution of higher education, and state agency facility located in the 41 non-attainment areas or affected counties must establish a goal to reduce electric consumption by at least five percent each state fiscal year.2 If a subdivision does not attain this goal then they must include justification that the entity has already reviewed its available options and determined that no additional measures are cost-effective and have not yet been implemented.2001, Amended in 2005
Texas34 Tex. Admin. Code §19.16,Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)Each state agency or institution of higher education must prepare a long-range plan for the delivery of reliable, cost-effective utility services to the agency or institution and update accordingly every 5 years.Provisions adopted in 2002, Amended in 2016
Texas34 Tex. Admin. Code §19.32Energy Efficiency (New Construction and Major Renovations)State Agencies and state-funded institutions of higher education must meet the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 90.1-2016 as a minimum energy standard for new construction and major renovation projects.Adopted in 2002, most recently amended in 2020

Texas
 Senate Bill (SB) 300Energy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)Public schools must develop long-range energy plans and reduce the district’s annual electricity consumption by 5 percent, beginning in 2008. The plan must include strategies to enhance energy efficiency without financial cost to the district. The districts do not have to submit reports but can submit them to the SECO to be considered for loan programs.2009
Austin, TXAustin Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure OrdinanceEnergy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)Commercial buildings more than 10,000 square feet that receive electricity from Austin Electric Utility must track and report their annual energy use using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool or through the utility.  Building owners must also disclose their energy star score to prospective buyers before the time of sale.2008
Austin, TXResolution No. 000608-43; Revised Resolution No. 20071129-045Energy Efficiency (New Construction)All city buildings must be built to LEED silver standards or higher. Additionally, to achieve LEED silver, buildings must meet set two criteria for new construction and major renovations:
– The project includes work in the five major LEED categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality
AND
– The project has construction costs of $2 million or more.

Smaller renovations, additions, and interior finishing costing $300,000 or more and requiring work in the LEED energy and atmosphere, material and resources, and indoor environmental quality categories must also achieve LEED Silver certification at a minimum.
2000, Revised in 2007
Austin, TXMulti-Family Energy AuditsEnergy Efficiency (Existing Buildings)Multifamily property owners and managers must conduct energy audits every ten years and provide the results to current and prospective residents.
Austin, TXRESOLUTION NO. 20170202-040Energy Efficiency (New Construction)All new residential and commercial buildings are constructed to be solar-ready beginning October 1, 2017.2017
El Paso, TXOrdinance 16911Energy Efficiency (New Construction)All new city buildings (and future planned Major Renovations) over 5,000 square feet in size are required to be designed, contracted, and built to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification level and strive for a higher level of certification (gold or platinum) when possible.2008, updated in 2012
Frisco, TXIECC & Cool Roof RequirementsEnergy Efficiency (New Construction)In addition to adopting the  International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) in 2019 with additional amendments to enhance building efficiency, commercial buildings are required to comply with the EPA Energy Star Cool Roof Program and meet minimum initial and aged solar reflectance values. Buildings must also meet specific heat island mitigation measures, landscape water conservation, and construction waste recycling standards.2019
Dallas, TXLEED Silver Requirement
Energy Efficiency (New Construction)New city buildings, public works, and transportation facilities larger than 10,000 square feet must be constructed to meet U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification standards.2003
Dallas, TXDallas Green Ordinance
Green Building Resolution 12-2428 Ordinance 28813 Phase II
Energy Efficiency (New Construction)New residential and commercial buildings less than 50,000 square feet must be 15% more efficient than required by the Dallas Energy Conservation Code and meet specific green building requirements as determined by the city council. These standards incorporate multiple building efficiency systems.2015, Effective March 2017
1.  https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-09/documents/climate-change-tx.pdf 
2. https://comptroller.texas.gov/programs/seco/reporting/local-gov.php

Key Sources:

  • https://database.aceee.org/policies-targeting-existing-buildings
  • https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/program-administrators/state-and-local-governments/see-federal-state-and-local-benchmarking-policies
  • https://www.dsireusa.org/
  • https://www.ncsl.org/research/energy/energy-legislation-tracking-database.aspx
  • https://comptroller.texas.gov/programs/seco/reporting/