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Governor signs new building efficiency rules

By Staff | Apr 13, 2017

HONOLULU – A new building energy code signed by Gov. David Ige last month will soon go into effect for state buildings.

The new efficiency rules – culminating the multi-year effort by state agencies and community stakeholders – are estimated to save over $14 billion in energy costs over the next 20 years, once adopted by the counties.

The code governs new construction and most renovation of residential, commercial and state buildings.

“The bridge to 100 percent renewable energy starts with smart, energy-efficient buildings,” said Jeff Mikulina, executive director at Blue Planet Foundation.

“We applaud the governor, State Building Code Council, and the State Energy Office for advancing energy efficiency codes that will save residents and business billions of dollars while preventing tens of millions of tons of global warming pollution.”

The new building energy code only applies to state construction until the counties adopt the updated energy code. The counties have two years to take action, after which time the new code takes effect automatically.

The new code – replacing decade-old building efficiency rules – was adopted unanimously by the State Building Code Council, which includes representatives of Hawaii’s development and construction industries.

“Hawaii Energy thanks Governor Ige for once again showing strong support for energy efficiency by adopting the latest energy conservation code for the State of Hawaii,” said Brian Kealoha, Hawaii Energy executive director.

“The governor’s action brings our island state significantly closer to its 100 percent clean energy goal. New homes and commercial facilities will be designed and built to save more energy. In the first year alone, this code should help curb our energy use by 12,000 MWh (megawatt hours) – equivalent to energy used by 1,900 Hawaii homes in a year.”

Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective energy resource available in the state, costing a fraction of fossil fuel-powered electricity. An analysis of the new rules prepared for the state by The Cadmus Group in May 2016 found that updated rules would save nearly $14.5 billion in energy savings across the islands using today’s electricity prices. The savings start at $4 million for the first year but quickly grow as more buildings comply with the efficiency requirements.

A separate study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in February 2016 found that the costs of complying with the code are far outweighed by the energy savings benefits.

The authors wrote: “The 2015 [Energy Conservation Code] provides cost-effective savings for residential buildings in Hawaii. Moving to the 2015 [code] from the 2006 [code] is cost-effective for residential buildings in all climate zones in Hawaii.”

The new building energy code is based on the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (2015 IECC), but amendments were made to provide flexibility in compliance for developers and to reflect Hawaii’s tropical environment. Significant technological advancements, such as LED lights and building automation, have enabled deeper energy savings over the past decade since the previous energy code was enacted.

Further, requirements in the updated energy code will provide new tools to assist in the integration of renewable energy on Hawaii grids.

“Hawaii Energy actively advocated in support of upgrading our energy code,” added Kealoha. “We also thank the State Building Code Council, State Energy Office, and Blue Planet Foundation for their tireless work in making this a reality. As the building code advances, Hawaii Energy will continue to encourage energy efficiency in building operations through education and training programs, while also providing financial incentives for the implementation of leading-edge energy-efficient technologies.”

Blue Planet Foundation believes that the new building energy code is particularly timely and important given the changing federal energy policy landscape. President Donald Trump has proposed to shift focus away from renewable energy and energy efficiency and to fossil fuel sources. The president recently proposed a budget that drastically cuts energy efficiency and renewable energy programs across the federal government, including the Energy Star program for appliances and devices, low-income energy assistance and other programs.

“Given the real potential that these critical federal energy savings programs will be eliminated, Hawaii leaders face a heightened responsibility to ensure that residents and businesses are protected through common sense energy conservation codes and standards,” said Mikulina.

“Hawaii has to take charge of its energy future. These codes are a significant step in the right direction. Energy efficiency is the foundation of achieving our clean energy future – it brings that future forward by reducing the amount of energy necessary to reach 100 percent renewable energy.”