Thursday, August 21, 2014

How Current Are Minnesota's Energy Efficiency Standards?

Today we're venturing into an area we try to stay away from, building codes and green building certification requirements. If one isn't involved on a daily basis, migraines are easy to come by. We promise to make it short and sweet.

The good news is there appears to be a major breakthrough to make it more straightforward to get commercial, industrial and highrise residential buildings designed and constructed as green, energy efficient edifices. The plethora of different sets of standards are going to be formally aligned.

If we hope to minimize the problems attributable to Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ADC), then we need more efficiency in the production, distribution and use of energy and less production of green house gases in the process.

The not so good news is that "The agreement does not extend to the low-rise residential sector for the time being, but Owens says preliminary talks have already begun to address housing as well." We hope they'll have early success and be able to accelerate the agreement's coverage of the low-rise residential sector. We need a clearer picture of where we are and how far we need to go. Just this morning, I read on Twitter (John Myers, Duluth News Tribune) about "Minnesota state government trying to spur citizen action on climate change with new effort..."

I went and looked at the referenced report and, as I skimmed it, noticed some statements that could be considered misleading or inaccurate. On page 14 is the statement "Building Energy Codes—Minnesota uses the most efficient codes in the nation so that new homes avoid air leaks, inefficient lighting, heating and cooling equipment, and more." That doesn't align very well with the information on the residential tab of USDOE's energy codes web pages, not does it appear consistent with Minnesota's own assessment from 2012-2013.
"The results of this study indicate that code compliance for commercial buildings in Minnesota is already over 90%, meeting the ARRA standard for all three building categories assessed. However, residential buildings were only about 75% compliant on average, falling short of the ARRA standard. This lack of compliance for residential buildings is largely due to the differences between the current Minnesota energy code and the ARRA Standard."

I've been told that Minnesota is working on updating it's code to meet the 2012 national code. That's supposed to become effective early next year, but some of the national energy requirements have been scaled back in Minnesota's version rolled back the wall insulation requirements. To get a better handle on what Minnesota could, and, I believe should, be doing, take a look at Deep Decarbonization Pathways. More governmental leadership, and clearer communications, would help Minnesota get, and stay, on track with our own green house gas reduction goals. The Minnesota report mentioned in the Duluth News article acknowledges that our 2015 goal is 15% reduction and we won't meet it. My Minnesota wrote about that back on July 1 of this year.

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