Always a leader in renewable power and new technology, the Golden State has taken another step to make sure it stays out in front.

This spring, the California Energy Commission approved new standards for new homes and commercial buildings. The 2013 Building Energy Efficiency Standards are 25 percent more efficient than previous standards for residential construction and 30 percent better for nonresidential construction. They will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Two energy policy goals drove adoption of the standards. The so-called Loading Order directs that growing demand must be met first with cost-effective energy efficiency and next with renewable generation. The state also has a zero-net energy (ZNE) goal for new homes by 2020 and commercial buildings by 2030. ZNE means new buildings must use a combination of improved efficiency and distributed renewable generation to meet 100 percent of the annual energy need.

The new standards include several measures that will help builders create more energy-efficient buildings through a variety of design features. In residential construction, these measures include solar-ready roofs, more efficient air conditioners, insulated hot water pipes, and whole-house fans. In commercial construction, the measures include high performance windows, daylighting sensors and controls, efficient process equipment, advanced lighting controls, solar-ready roofs, and cool roof technologies.

While the standards are expected to increase the cost of construction, the savings on energy bills are expected to more than offset them. More specifically, they are projected to increase the average cost of constructing a new home by $2,290 but to return more than $6,200 in energy savings over 30 years. Based on a 30-year mortgage, the standards will add approximately $11 per month for the average home but save consumers $27 on monthly heating, cooling and lighting bills.

Furthermore, the commission projects the standards to add up to 3,500 new building industry jobs in the first year.