CEC Sets Efficiency Standards for Existing and New Buildings

By Published On: December 14, 2003

While it will no doubt end up in court, the California Energy Commission agreed not only to impose energy-efficiency standards on new construction but also to require existing buildings to use power more efficiently to boost conservation. Although the commission?s intention to save energy with the new standards adopted November 5 was not challenged, a few took issue with the commission?s authority to take that step. The new energy-efficiency standards for buildings, set for implementation in October 2005, would reduce the need for one new power plant, according to commission staff. An estimated savings of 180 MW a year in avoided energy use that would accumulate over time is expected. About 40 percent of the savings would be achieved by requiring standing buildings to change windows and install new heating and air conditioning systems to meet the new thresholds. Windows would have to be double-paned and have a shade value. Heating and cooling system replacements would require related ductwork to be sealed. ?Some of this is going to get played out in court,? commissioner Robert Pernell conceded to critics. Despite that, he and the other commissioners gave the standards the thumbs-up. ?The state always has to be a cutting-edge state,? said commissioner Jim Boyd. For the first time, the commission?s building standards cover outdoor lighting. During the blackouts of the energy crisis, when car sales lots and strip malls were patrolled and cited by local police for keeping their lights on at night, unnecessary exterior lighting became an issue. A bill passed in extraordinary session during the time, SBx1-5, expanded the commission?s authority to impose more efficient lighting standards. A representative of the California Building Industry Association expressed concerns about the supply of efficient outdoor lighting fixtures but supported the change. It will take ?substantial training? for contractors to meet new demands, he admitted. ?We?re going to have to change the way we do business.?

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