By Reid Smith
The European Union (EU) isn’t shy about implementing aggressive energy policy. In January, for example, the EU passed a proposal for Climate Action that includes an overall binding target of 20% renewable energy by 2020, according to the European Commission.
The US, on the other hand continues to shy away from aggressive energy policy. However, one of the more influential energy votes of the year will be decided by a small council in Minnesota, the International Codes Council (ICC). The ICC will vote in September on an energy efficiency policy that could influence energy in the US over the next 20 years, according to the ICC.
What is the International Codes Council and why is it that it has such an influence over national energy use? The ICC is a membership association that develops the codes used to construct residential and commercial buildings. Most U.S. cities, counties and states adopt codes that follow the standards developed by the ICC. For more information, see http://www.iccsafe.org/.
One non-profit, the Energy Efficiency Codes Coalition (EECC) has developed a comprehensive proposal called the “30% Solution,” which is estimated to achieve a 30% overall improvement in energy efficiency for all US homes. It mandates more aggressive standards in space heating and cooling, thermal envelope, air sealing, hot water heating and lighting. See http://ase.org/extensions/eecc/ for more information on the EECC and its proposal.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, half of the homes that the US will need in 2030 have yet to be constructed. Homes and other buildings use 75% of US electricity and 40% of its energy, and are big emitters of greenhouse gases. If buildings are built more efficiently today, they’ll have an important impact before 2030. By that time, world market energy consumption is expected to increase by 57% according to the US Department of Energy.
As energy costs continue to spike, energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important, especially for low-income homebuyers. According to Global Green, a non-profit focusing on low-income homeowners, homeowners’ inability to pay utility bills is the number two reason for foreclosure of first homes. Because it costs much more to renovate an existing structure, it is critical to build all new homes with a strict energy efficiency code.
Given the potential for the ICC to dramatically cut energy use, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on this proposal.
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