Why should building energy codes matter to Americans?

Averaging over $2,000 annually, America’s utility bills are the highest cost of maintaining a home, higher than either property taxes or insurance. Buying a home with the permanent energy saving improvements contained in the most current codes will save the average household anywhere from $5,000 to $33,000 over a typical 30-year mortgage, after recouping the initial costs of the improvements. Energy efficient homes are healthier, better built, more comfortable, quieter and have higher resale values.

Buildings represent the largest energy consuming sector (more than 40 percent of the total energy consumed in the U.S.) in our economy, and the residential sector represents 22 percent of all buildings’ energy consumption. Building homes to the most current codes is critical to helping reduce energy waste, clean our air and lessen our dependence on imported energy.

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Codes are developed and enforced through state and locally driven processes, open for input to all interested parties. Each state and local government can freely modify the codes they adopt, based on independent jurisdictional objectives. 

Now, a major effort is underway by some members of Congress to undo the contributions building codes have made to energy efficiency. A so-called comprehensive energy bill is being developed in the House Energy & Commerce Committee that would reverse the efficiency gains made by improved building energy codes.  

We shouldn’t roll back this progress. There is already legislation pending in the Senate that provides a better solution for building energy codes. The Portman-Shaheen bill, S. 720, contains carefully negotiated code provisions that enjoy the support of businesses and organizations across the country and represent a consensus derived from years of negotiations among the key stakeholders. That language is also part of the House counterpart bill, H.R. 2177, as introduced by Reps. David McKinleyDavid Bennett McKinleyThe Memo: Hunter Biden and the politics of addiction OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Native groups hope Haaland's historic confirmation comes with tribal wins | EPA asks court to nix Trump rule limiting GHG regs | Green group asks regulators to block use of utility customers' money for lobbying  Lawmakers press federal agencies on scope of SolarWinds attack MORE (R-W. Va.) and Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchDemocrats gear up for major push to lower drug prices Lawmakers debate role of prescription drugs and generics in health care costs The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending MORE (D-Vt.). The House Energy & Commerce Committee should substitute the codes language from the McKinley-Welch bill for the language presently contained in the House Discussion Draft.  

Urge your legislators not to “turn back the clock” on codes by asking them to adopt the bi-partisan and widely supported improvements to the code development process contained in H.R. 2177. Let’s continue to build on the tremendous success story that is energy efficiency, which has enabled us to double our energy productivity over the past forty years and brought us to the point where doubling our energy productivity again by 2030 is now a realistically attainable goal.

Callahan is president of the Alliance to Save Energy.