Lawmakers in Sacramento were busy in 2015. New laws to improve energy efficiency in California are on the books, and deadlines for reaching state targets are even more ambitious.

One of the more intriguing pieces of legislation is California Assembly Bill 802 which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October. This is a great opportunity for sustainability leaders, businesses, municipalities and other organizations to give their input on future regulations for energy use in large existing buildings. During 2016, the new law directs the California Energy Commission (CEC) staff to “engage in a public process to develop regulations and establish the reporting infrastructure for the new program.”

windowsAB 802 combines energy benchmarking with public disclosures of building energy use data. This law replaces Assembly Bill 1103, which required disclosure of energy use in commercial and multi-family buildings (larger than 10,000 square feet) when they were sold or leased, called time-of-transaction disclosure. AB 1103 expired Dec. 31, 2015 and AB 802 doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2017, so this year the CEC is seeking input from all stakeholders. The plan is to require utilities to provide to nonresidential building owners, upon request, recent 12-month energy usage data for the benefit of prospective buyers or lessees. The law includes provisions for utilities to offer rebates, incentives, technical assistance and support to owners that improve their buildings’ energy efficiencies.

Also in October Gov. Brown signed the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 requiring the state’s utilities to get 50 percent of electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030. California Senate Bill 350 previously set a target of 33 percent renewables by 2020. The new law expands the state’s long-term energy efficiency goals by mandating a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency in buildings where Californians live and work, also by 2030. The legislation is intended to improve air quality and boost clean power such as solar, wind, thermal and hydro. The law even addresses energy storage, electric vehicle charging stations and a regional electricity grid.

Another law that focuses on increasing energy performance in existing buildings is California Assembly Bill 758. It requires the state’s Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission to collaborate with stakeholders to develop a comprehensive energy-efficiency plan that benefits building owners as well as energy users. Beginning in 2015, AB 758 launched a 10-year program to upgrade and improve the energy performance of existing buildings throughout the state. This is another opportunity for sustainability leaders to make an impact on energy-efficiency legislation.

Keep in mind that deadlines are on the horizon for California’s Long-term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. The plan includes requiring newly constructed buildings to be zero net energy, meaning they produce as much energy as the buildings and their occupants use. The state has mandated that all new residential construction be zero net energy by 2020, and all new commercial construction be zero net energy by 2030.