Vote YES to Balance Renewables and Efficiency

RE173-16 AMPC  is a critical code fix to balance renewables and energy efficiency.

By Kateri Callahan

The 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) introduced a new path for residential code compliance –  the Energy Rating Index (ERI).  This option proved deeply flawed owing to a loophole that allows renewable energy to replace existing energy efficiency requirements in the code. This loophole, often referred to as the “solar trade-off,” could dramatically reduce home energy efficiency by allowing solar to be used in lieu of the permanent, proven and reliable efficiency offered by other measures.

Opponents to the solar trade-off don’t oppose the use of renewable energy in the building energy code; they simply oppose allowing solar PV panels as a substitute for cost effective efficiency measures. (See High-Performance Plus Solar.)

At the 2018 IECC code development hearings in Kansas City in October, a diverse group of stakeholders got behind a common-sense proposal to fix this problem: RE173-16 AMPC. Here is a quick Q&A that will help you understand the proposal.

How does consensus proposal RE173-16 AMPC operate?

The consensus proposal protects homeowners by ensuring a minimum level of thermal envelope efficiency (insulation, sealing and windows). The proposal simply requires that if solar is used under the ERI path, builders must also meet the minimum prescriptive envelope efficiency measures in the 2015 IECC. This means solar and other renewable forms of energy can continue to be used but as an add-on rather than a widespread substitute for energy efficiency.

Who supports RE173-16 AMPC?

The proposal has a very broad base of support, including the Alliance to Save Energy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Leading Builders of America, National Association of Home Builders, Solar Energy Industry Association, and numerous energy efficiency advocacy groups and trade groups representing components of the building envelope.

This broad and diverse stakeholder support resulted in RE173-16 AMPC being approved by a nearly unanimous vote at the ICC public hearings in Kansas City.

Why is RE173-16 AMPC important?

There are several reasons that this consensus proposal is important, but a big one is that RE173-16 AMPC advances the code toward the long-term goal of the IECC: construction of net zero homes.  Achieving this goal is possible only with a highly efficient building envelope in combination with solar or other on-site renewable generation. This common-sense proposal recognizes and seeks to codify this basic fact.

Amid all the technical and political wrangling that happens during the code process it can be easy to lose sight of what it is really all about: making buildings safer, more durable and cheaper to own and operate for the average citizen. If passed, RE173-16 AMPC will help do exactly that.

If you have a vote, make sure you use it to approve RE173-16 AMPC.

Related: Solar Vs. Thermal Envelope Case Study: Florida 

Kateri Callahan is president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit, bipartisan alliance of business, government, environmental and consumer leaders advocating since 1977 for enhanced energy efficiency across all sectors of the economy.