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.