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MEC readies to battle for modern energy codes in new buildings

The energy legislation signed by Gov. Granholm in October requires Michigan utility companies to deliver efficiency programs that save money for residential, commercial and industrial ratepayers. Much of that effort will be aimed at buttoning up existing structures to make them better insulated and replacing out-of-date lighting and space conditioning equipment (heating, ventilation and cooling) with energy-sipping replacements.

But that’s only part of the battle.

MEC and its allies are gearing up to convince state legislators to overhaul the state’s outdated and inefficient construction codes for new buildings.

“Michigan has failed to keep pace with modern energy-saving standards in building codes,” said MEC Energy Program Director David Gard. “The result is that homeowners, business owners and tenants are paying far more than they need to in energy costs to heat, cool and maintain their homes and businesses.

“That means higher monthly bills, more expensive products, increased demand for polluting power plants and unnecessary releases of global warming gasses and unhealthy pollution.”

The current state standard, the Michigan Uniform Energy Code, has not been updated in nearly a decade and is among the least stringent in the nation. It does not adhere to the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), which was the product of a development process involving the nation’s leading experts in energy efficiency, building design and product performance, state and local code officials, product manufacturers and homebuilders.

A court victory this fall brought Michigan’s residential code reasonably up to date, but much work needs to be done to implement the new code and keep it current.

Updating the code makes economic and environmental sense. As fossil fuel prices continue to rise, building more efficient residences will help keep utility bills affordable for homeowners and renters. Homes that use less energy will also hold more resale value.

As building construction and operation account for nearly 40% of global energy use, modern codes are essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants spewed by fossil fuel power plants.

“We learned some lessons during the long fight for clean energy standards in Michigan that we hope to apply to our 2009 effort to modernize Michigan’s construction codes,” said James Clift, MEC policy director. “We look forward to working with the leadership of both parties to help move Michigan forward.”
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