House Energy Bill Calls for More Efficiency in Building Codes

August 1, 2007

The House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 3221 calling for significant energy efficiency upgrades in state building codes. The bill, which the White House has already threatened to veto, advances to conference committee, where work to craft a compromise with the Senate’s energy bill, passed this spring, is expected to begin in September.

Section 304 of the House bill would require the national model building energy codes and standards to be upgraded at least every three years to achieve overall energy savings. The bill sets targets for achieving at least 30 percent overall energy savings by 2010 and 50 percent by 2020, compared to the 2006 International Energy Efficiency Code for residential buildings and American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ Standard 90.1 2004 for commercial buildings.

The bill charges the Department of Energy to review the IECC and ASHRAE standards when they are revised to determine whether they will achieve those targets. If the model code groups fail, DOE will then step in to propose a code to meet the 30 percent and 50 percent targets (more about the ramifications of these requirements will appear in Window & Door’s monthly column Code Arena, in our September issue).

While the House bill includes provisions for state and local governments to issue bonds to fund residential energy efficiency enhancements through grants and low-interest loans, there are no provisions for an extension of the current tax credit for energy efficient improvements to existing buildings or upgrades in new construction. Those provisions were not in the Senate bill either.

The Senate and House bills differ in a number of major ways. The Senate energy bill would require significant improvements in automakers’ corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ) standards, a controversial issue which the House bill did not address. In addition, the House bill includes a provision said to require most utilities to generate a minimum of 15 percent of their energy from renewable resources.

Meanwhile, the White House dislikes both bills because they cut back on tax incentives offered to gas and oil producers, and do little to expand domestic production.

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