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SierraScape February - March 2010
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Missouri Stimulus Funds Tied to Building Energy Codes

by Becky Denney
Contributing Member

By July 14, 2009 the US Department of Energy had the letter from Governor Nixon assuring them Missouri would comply with Section 410 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which was required for us to receive and distribute State Energy Program (SEP) funds. Most other states and territories had also sent such letters to the US DOE. These assurances were needed so DOE could distribute funds available from the Stimulus Act or ARRA. This amounted to 22.9 million for support of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for Missouri. This is 50% of our SEP distribution but we must meet DOE standards for oversight and accountability to receive the rest of the funds.

The funds in the SEP program are distributed through the Energy Center of Department of Natural Resources. These funds can be applied to home efficiency programs, school projects, local government projects, distributed to industrial facilities and agricultural operations. The SEP funds can also be used to develop worker education programs so Missouri has workers trained to use energy efficiency technologies.

The SEP funds can be used for implementing national model building energy codes (the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code and ASHRAE 90.1-2007) or for energy building codes that are of equal or greater stringency than the national model codes. The IECC is the code used for homes while the ASHRAE code is used for commercial buildings. Advocates concerned that Missouri needs to adopt energy efficient building codes for a clean energy future had expected a plan from state officials to adopt, implement and demonstrate 90% compliance by 2017 as the ARRA requires for acceptance of SEP funds. Indeed, we received 50% of the funds but there is no sign that Missouri is closer to adopting the model energy conservation codes that Congress mandated than it was a year ago.

Missouri is one of 11 states that doesn't have statewide energy codes for new residential buildings and retrofits. Even for those states with current statewide codes the enforcement of model energy building codes is not nearly the 90% required by ARRA. Training is needed so builders will design and properly install the newer energy saving techniques. And, training is needed so code officials can keep up to date to enforce the codes. Attention to each aspect to increase energy savings in a new building that will last over 50 years is a strong basis for a sustainable energy policy.

The average increase in energy efficiency between a new home built using 2006 IECC and the 2009 IECC is 15%. Our goal for the 2012 IECC is to show an average increase of another 15%. The technologies required for this increase are well known and considered to be "off the shelf." Gradual increases are easier to implement than going from no codes at all to the ultimate goal which is a zero energy use home. And, in the case of Missouri, where we have no statewide codes for either residential or commercial buildings, we must take important steps each year along the way.

Missouri needs to show that we have a plan in place to enforce and honestly assess our compliance rates with the national model energy building codes. But first Governor Nixon must ensure that we adopt the 2009 IECC codes statewide and we must have a process to update them. The $28.6 million that we should receive as additional SEP funds may depend on that adoption. Meanwhile every time a building is constructed without adhering to the current codes we can expect at least 50 years of wasteful and inefficient energy use.

For more on building energy conservation codes please contact:

Becky Denney