Energy Efficiency and Conservation

Energy efficiency means getting more out of the energy we already use. This includes using less energy to provide services such as heating lighting and cooling. Energy conservation is similar to energy efficiency, but means changing behavior to use less energy. Individual actions such as turning down the heat and turning off the lights are just a couple of ways to conserve energy.

Energy efficiency and conservation are the least expensive, most reliable, and cleanest energy resources available. Although energy efficiency is not often thought of as an energy resource, it is abundantly available and has great potential in Montana and the region. In fact, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NWPCC), a regional energy-planning agency, has determined that energy efficiency and conservation can meet 85% of the Northwest’s energy needs over the next 20 years. See NWPCC’s Sixth Power Plan for more detailed information.

Montana has some policies that support energy efficiency including State and Federal Tax Credits, and the Universal Systems Benefit Fund. But Montana needs to pass additional policies such as energy efficiency standards, to help the state fully realize its energy efficiency potential. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Montana ranks 35th out of 50 states in energy efficiency policies and program implementation.

Building Codes and Conservation in Montana

Buildings account for over 40% of the total energy use in the United States, and 33% of the total greenhouse gas emissions come from the building sector. Baseline building codes with strong energy-efficiency measures can reduce energy use significantly, save homeowners money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Energy codes can improve building efficiency by requiring more energy-efficient lighting, insulation, and heating/cooling systems.

The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) serves as a model for building energy codes that several states adopt as their statewide energy code. The IECC updates its energy code every three years to keep up with advancements in technology and research.

In Montana, local building codes automatically fall under the jurisdiction of the Montana Building Codes Bureau at the Department of Labor. Local governments may choose to enforce building energy codes using their own building code officials. Outside of local jurisdictions homebuilders self-certify that homes meet the energy code. There are currently 46 certified local jurisdictions. All other areas are self-certifying areas.

Montana adopted the 2009 version of the IECC in March of 2010 with several additional amendments to strengthen energy efficiency. MEIC worked with conservation organizations, architects, and rural electric cooperatives to pass these amendments.

Montana’s updated energy code should save 12-15% more energy than its previous energy code which was based on the 2003 IECC. MEIC also advocates for policies and implementation strategies that improve energy code enforcement and compliance so that potential energy savings are fully realized.

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