This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Some Utah home builders are fighting the change, but despite their objections, the Utah Legislature should adopt the latest updates to the International Energy Conservation Code.
The 2009 code would make new homes more energy-efficient and shrink utility bills for every family that lives in them. Right now, new homes in Utah are built to outdated 2006 code requirements.
The Legislature gave itself the responsibility to decide to adopt the new codes, which come out every three years. Previously, the governor made the decision, but now that legislators vote on new codes, the process has developed political undertones and delayed the final decision.
Lobbyists, including those representing home builders, have a chance to influence the vote, but ordinary homeowners don't have the same kind of access.
The 2009 code requires that 50 percent of home lighting be rated "high-efficiency." Its other updates require more wall and water-pipe insulation, improved duct sealing, reduced energy loss through building walls and third-party testing to verify that the home meets the requirements.
The state's Uniform Building Code Commission's Energy Ad Hoc Committee has determined that owners of homes built to the 2009 standard would save an average of $175 per year on energy costs, after accounting for the initial $980 cost to meet the new requirements. The U.S. Department of Energy Building Energy Codes Program estimates a higher savings, between $216 and $265 per year.
Those figures are based on current power rates, but the cost of electricity in Utah has gone up 4 to 5 percent per year for the past decade. So it's a good bet that the savings possible from meeting higher energy-efficiency standards would exceed those estimates.
There is always a cost for energy efficiency. But it is far more cost-effective to reduce consumption than to produce more power. Electricity costs between 6 cents and 14 cents for one kilowatt-hour. The cost of building energy efficiency into a home is about 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Less energy used means lower power costs for everyone.
Gov. Gary Herbert's office has recommended that the Legislature adopt the 2009 code, writing that "Energy efficiency and conservation are critical components of Utah's efforts to provide affordable energy, improve energy security and independence, diversify our energy resource base and grow our economy."
We agree, and urge legislators to act in the interest of their constituents, not yield to home builders.