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Infrastructure law funds energy-efficient building code upgrades to cut electricity costs

The Department of Energy projects that the building code modernization efforts could cut energy costs by as much as $138 billion over the next 30 years.

By Oliver Willis - July 25, 2022
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Energy efficiency
PRODUCTION - 08 February 2022, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Sch'mberg: A man connects a pipe to the roof of a new building, allowing thermal insulation material to pass through a high-performance blowing machine directly under the roof. Photo by: Silas Stein/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Last week, President Joe Biden’s administration announced a new effort to help state and local governments update building codes to make structures more energy-efficient. The initiative will be funded through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Department of Energy said in a release.

The department projects that the $225 million in federal grants from the act will help lower electricity costs for families and businesses totaling as much as $138 billion over a 30-year period. Improvements like the use of more advanced insulation designed to keep building temperatures season-appropriate, along with modern construction techniques that protect against extreme weather like flooding, hurricanes, and wildfire are projected to lower costs for residents.

“Raising the efficiency standard of America’s new buildings will rapidly save Americans money on their utility bills and strengthen the nation’s building stock against extreme weather events,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a release.

The standards are also being used to raise efficiency standards and cut carbon emissions. Buildings account for 35% of carbon emissions in the United States, according to the department. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change, resulting in increased temperatures that cause extreme weather events and the depletion of vital resources.

In her statement, Granholm said, “This investment will slash carbon emissions, grow the clean energy workforce, and equitably deliver the benefits of modern buildings to our communities.”

Recent research from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has shown that only 35% of towns, cities, and counties within the U.S. have the latest available building codes in place, meaning that the vast majority of buildings within the country are out of step with advanced codes and the benefits those codes would provide for efficiency and safety. According to the White House, this shortfall has left “millions of Americans more vulnerable to extreme weather and higher energy costs.” The newly announced strategy seeks to lower energy costs and emissions by funding energy-efficient building upgrades.

President Joe Biden signed the $1 trillion infrastructure law in November 2021 after it passed Congress with largely Democratic votes. Just 13 House Republicans and 19 Senate Republicans voted in favor of the legislation.

The use of new, modernized standards that will be used at the state and local level to reduce emissions is a part of an initiative announced by Biden to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by America by 50-52% by 2030 from the levels measured in 2005. The administration has asserted that this effort will increase the availability of good-paying union jobs while improving health and security and advancing environmental justice.

The administration has also previously announced the goal of the United States achieving “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050.

To this end, the Biden administration has prioritized projects like auctioning off land to be used by private companies for offshore wind farms, instead of the previous administration of former President Donald Trump’s emphasis on fossil fuels. In February, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s auction of property in the region known as the New York Bight broke records, bringing in over $4.37 billion in bids.

The administration has also made investments in technologies like solar power with the goal of lowering emissions, putting millions into research, and developing products like solar cells and other solar-related products.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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