What would allow our North Carolina legislators to fulfill their campaign promises to create jobs [and] protect homeowners and the environment without new nuclear plants? They have a win-win opportunity if they adopt the new 2012 Energy Conservation Code, which would increase energy efficiency by 15 percent in new residential and 30 percent in commercial construction.
Codes are minimum standards for the efficiency of lighting and the “building envelope,” which refers to the air-tightness of a building. The industry is rapidly transitioning to green-design construction, which far exceeds these minimum standards.
According to Jeff Tiller, a professor at Appalachian State University, the estimated cost for compliance with the new 2012 Energy Code is approximately $6 to $8 a month, or between $1,000 to $1,500 per 1,800-square-foot starter home. But the savings from lower utility costs would immediately result in saving between $15 to $20 a month, which puts money in your pocket, every month, from day one. That gives homeowners a tax-free, risk-free, 53 to 56 percent rate of return for their investment.
A few months ago, Asheville made national news when it received the designation as the fourth worst city in the United States to find a job. Tiller points out that the requirements of the new code involve labor-intensive improvements, which would add 400 to 500 green jobs in North Carolina over the next three years. Our state’s supply chain also includes window and insulation manufacturers, so increased demand could increase both sales and the sustainability of buildings through locally sourced materials.
The legislature has been debating utility-rate increases for new power plants, but the new codes would reduce cooling loads from 85 to 100 megawatts, reducing the need for new plants. In fact, a 30 percent improvement in building efficiency nationwide would eliminate the need for 80 new nuclear power plants over the next 20 years, according to Mathis Consulting.
Adopting improved efficiency codes would immediately reduce global warming, without requiring any new technology, infrastructure improvements, lifestyle or behavioral changes.
Regardless of your views on global warming, better codes just make economic sense. Sounds like a win-win situation for North Carolina economy — and the planet.
— Laura Piraino