Protecting Energy Efficiency Standards
One of the key components of making buildings in Washington more energy efficient is
strengthening our state energy code. That may sound rather theoretical, but it
has some significant real world implications. Namely, new buildings and
remodels of a certain scale have to meet the energy efficiency standards set by
the state. These changes offer a big potential for savings, both in energy use
and consumer dollars.
WEC and our partners worked to encourage the Washington State Building Code Council to set higher standards for smart energy use. Improved energy efficiency standards would save consumers millions of dollars and reduce harmful global warming pollution - setting a strong example for other states to follow in adopting energy- and cost-saving policies.
The State Building Code Council adopted new standards last fall, requiring builders to choose from a list of practical and accessible energy-saving options for new homes, such as installation of high efficiency, money-saving furnaces or water heaters, or super-efficient insulation and windows. Each option is given a value based on its energy savings potential, from a half credit to two credits. From that menu of energy saving options, builders select measures totaling at least one credit.
Last year, the Building Industry Association of Washington filed a lawsuit against the code. The industry group claimed that federal law prevents the state from requiring energy efficient design elements in new construction projects.
WEC and our partners at NW Energy Coalition, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, intervened in court on behalf of the state’s improved energy standards. As attorney Amanda Goodin from Earthjustice explains, “Federal law explicitly lays out a path so states can adopt building codes that promote energy efficiency which will create green jobs. Our building code follows that path.”
The courts agreed with us and upheld the new code. A U.S. District Court
judge ruled that the BIAW failed to show that the code requires them to use
products with higher efficiency than mandated by federal standards as the only
way to comply. The case was then dismissed. The BIAW has filed an appeal, but
we are optimistic that the courts will continue to see the strength of the
This is a big success and very encouraging for other states that have yet to adopt energy savings measures. WEC and our partners will continue work to encourage higher energy efficiency standards which not only save residents money with new environmentally-friendly homes, but also reduce global warming pollution.