MINNEAPOLIS—Largely unnoticed in the shadow of the midterm elections, the International Code Council—a body of building officials from local and state governments across the country—convened in Charlotte, North Carolina during the last week of October to make what is arguably the most significant energy policy decision of 2010. The Council meets every three years to consider updates to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the standard by which new homes and businesses are built. And this year, the Council voted overwhelmingly for stronger energy efficiency standards.
Over 400 delegates—including a representative from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry—voted on the new codes, which represent a major increase in the stringency of energy codes for both homes and commercial buildings. Minnesota currently requires buildings to be built according to a code last updated in 2007; adoption of the new model energy code would be a dramatic step forward, representing at least a 30% increase in efficiency for new buildings and eliminating the equivalent global warming pollution of over 8 million cars.
“The new energy code protects new home and business owners by locking in energy savings at the beginning of the building’s life, when it is most cost-effective to do so,” said, Ken Bradley, Director of Environment Minnesota. “In addition, buildings account for 40 percent of the country’s energy use and half of our global warming pollution, so improving the energy performance of Minnesota’s buildings will help move us away from our dependence on imported fossil fuel energy.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the new energy codes have the potential to net Minnesota homeowners $500-700 each year in reduced energy costs, even considering the incrementally higher cost of constructing a more efficient new home. The codes call for the use of “off-the-shelf” measures that are already used by builders across the country, including better insulation, more efficient windows, and sealing of leaky heating and cooling ducts.
While the national model energy codes are now 30% stronger, those energy savings are not yet guaranteed for homeowners. States will have to consider adoption of the new codes, which could occur as soon as the beginning of next year.
“The officials who have supported these dramatic improvements to the energy efficiency of our buildings deserve tremendous credit. They’ve given Minnesota an important tool to help meet our energy, environmental, and economic challenges. Adoption of the new codes would save Minnesotans billions of dollars and keep energy money in our local economies while avoiding the pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels,” said Bradley. He added, “Improving building energy efficiency coupled with our Good Jobs, Clean Energy 10% Solar Electricity Campaign will increase construction and manufacturing jobs while moving our state towards energy freedom.” Minnesota imports billions and billions of dollars of fossil fuels each year that weakens our economy while creating wealth for nations that fund terrorism and companies that fund efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act.
If adopted by Minnesota, these new codes may also ease the burden on utilities to satisfy an ever-increasing demand for power across the state. “Faced with state conservation program to implement energy-efficiency, utilities should welcome the adoption of new standards that will so dramatically reduce energy demand,” Bradley said. “Utilities were among the coalition of groups working for approval of these codes in North Carolina, and we look forward to working with utilities in Minnesota to support adoption of the new codes at the state level.” Steve Rosenstock, manager at Edison Electric Institute—a coalition that represents utility companies across the nation—said: “Code officials today passed important measures that increase energy efficiency and will lower electricity, gas, and fuel oil bills for people across the United States.”
The Energy Efficient Codes Coalition (EECC), an alliance of government, business, manufacturing, low-income housing, and environmental groups, including Environment Minnesota—developed and advocated for the new package of code updates which led to the 30 percent increase in efficiency measures. “The vote in Charlotte represents an unprecedented gain in efficiency” said Harry Misuriello, spokesperson for the EECC. “In the last four years, the code council has accomplished more in efficiency than they had since 1975. Local governments clearly realize that they have an important stake in efficiency, and that’s why they sent their delegates here to Charlotte to vote for greater energy savings.”