Efficiency First

HB 1747 and SB 5854, a.k.a. “Efficiency First” seems almost too good to be true. One of the four legislative priorities for 2009 chosen by the Environmental Priorities Coalition, the proposed bill addresses energy use in buildings, and would:

  • Mandate ongoing building code updates that would require super-efficient, low-energy-use buildings
  • Require energy-use performance scores and disclosure (like car M.P.G. ratings)
  • Provide incentives for energy efficient building operations
  • Facilitate up-front financing for energy efficiency
  • Reduce high energy costs for low-income residents

On the first bullet point, the code updates would be crafted to adhere to the 2030 Challenge, which calls for all new buildings to achieve zero-carbon emissions by 2030.  The 2030 Challenge also specifies a series of intermediate targets, starting with a 50% reduction for all buildings being designed today.

But the updates to building code that would be necessary to meet those targets would not be trivial, to say the least.  In fact, methinks there will be no shortage of angst in the builder and developer communities if this legislation moves forward as proposed.  (And perhaps for good reason in some cases — e.g., the 2030 Challenge does not yet adequately address the issue of how the targets get more difficult to meet as building height goes up.)

On the second bullet point, resistance from building owners is to be expected, but the car companies didn’t like being told to put in seat belts either.  The first step towards reduction is knowledge of how much you’re using.  California recently established a similar energy use reporting requirement.

And on the three remaining points, well, what’s not to like?  This is highly encouraging legislation.

Hearings on the bill are being held this week in Olympia:

  • Monday, Feb. 2, 1:30 p.m., by the House Technology, Energy & Communications Committee in the John L. O’Brien Building, House Room B
  • Wednesday, Feb. 4, 3:30 p.m. by the Senate Environment, Water & Energy Committee in the Cherberg Building, Senate Room 4

Late notice for the hearings, but you can always call, write, or send email to your representatives expressing your support.

6 Responses to “Efficiency First”

  1. Dan Staley

    It’s one thing to have code, it’s another to pay for inspectors to follow through.

  2. Spencer


    Although I haven’t read the entire bill word for word I have done a pretty good skim. It’s pretty exciting. I’d like to add some more on provisions for low-income homeowners: Up to 25,000 homes can qualify for assistance per year. The low-income weatherization assistance has been rewritten increasing access to funding to both single family and multifamily buildings. It also states that a tenant can not be evicted from a building nor can their rent increase due to upgrades. Increased grant availability. Job training. Utility donations to low-income homes.

    What I can’t find are the 2030 challenge improvements. Unless, it’s part of the CTED items notspecified?

  3. dan bertolet

    Spencer, well, I didn’t even give the bill a skim. The 2030 challenge language appears in multiple descriptions of the legislation that I’ve seen. But maybe that’s just somebody’s wishful thinking. Ugh, don’t make me read the bill…

  4. spence

    It’s not that boring. The 2030 stuff may be in some addenda.

  5. James

    The bill listed above references a different subject. The bill number for Efficiency First is HB 1747, there is no Senate number yet. The bill number listed here is the bill that modifies I-937 to allow for donations to this fund as RENEWABLE energy credits.

    Otherwise, great post, and it’s a terrifically exciting bill.

  6. Nate Cole-Daum

    Dear Mr. Cole-Daum,

    Thank you very much for your e-mail supporting House Bill 1747 and Senate Bill 5649, the “Efficiency First” legislation. I’m a co-sponsor of the Senate version of this legislation. Both of these bills are set to come before their respective houses of the Legislature for a vote sometime in the next week.

    While not the largest slice of our air-pollution pie chart, building energy needs still significantly contribute to global warming. This legislation would adopt state energy code efficiency targets for new buildings and standards for public buildings. Just as importantly, it would require utilities to collect and disclose energy consumption data for public and commercial buildings, so we could further evaluate where and how we could improve those standards in the future. There is a potential “carrot” in all this: the bill authorizes local governments to engage in energy conservation services in coordination with local utilities. Under this program, the locals may provide lien-secured loan or, for the poor or infirm, grants for energy improvements.

    This program would not only help the environment, it could help thousands of households and businesses save energy dollars, especially as fuel costs inevitably rise. You can count on my Yes vote on this bill in the Senate.

    Thanks again for your e-mail, and for your activism regarding this important issue.

    Yours truly,


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