Last Tuesday and Wednesday, North Carolina Building Performance Association (NCBPA) member professionals and staff spent two days at the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh advocating and lobbying for policy improvements that support increased energy efficiency, green building and high performance construction practices in all North Carolina homes and buildings. The events were sponsored by member company Ingersoll Rand.
As a result of these meetings, the association’s priority legislation – a bill to increase energy and water savings goals for public buildings – was filed yesterday by bill sponsors Rep. John Szoka (R-45), Rep. Dean Arp (R-69), Rep. Stephen Ross (R-63) and Rep. Chris Humphrey (R-12). The $1.1 Billion of projected savings amounts to 8% of the state’s $13.4 Billion of energy savings potential, as identified in NCBPA’s 2018 report.
The Building Performance Industry’s Legislative Agenda
NCBPA, a not-for-profit trade association with more than 250 member companies, represents the industry’s 50,000-plus professionals and led the annual Industry Lobby Days to garner legislator support for policies that improve opportunities for North Carolina citizens and businesses to live and work in energy efficient, green and high performance buildings. The industry accounts for nearly 4% of North Carolina’s annual gross domestic product and is the largest sector of the state’s clean energy economy.
Developed with its member companies, the association’s 2019 Legislative Agenda targets several areas of policy development that are beneficial to the industry and its customers:
- Enabling legislation that increases the energy and water savings goals for public buildings from 30% and 20% by 2015 to 40% and 30%, respectively, by 2025.
- Enabling legislation that adds an Energy professional seat to the North Carolina Building Code Council.
- Modifying exemptions to North Carolina’s energy code for residential garages, new and existing commercial buildings.
- Informing legislators of the benefits of building performance and energy efficiency found in utility programs, commercial and industrial building regulations, and private financing programs.
Members Describe the Benefits of Building Performance
“Legislators want to be helpful to their constituents and hear solutions directly from those impacted by the legislation they create,” said Eric Stabasefski of Cambium Contracting, Co-Chair of NCBPA’s Policy & Legislation Committee. “As building performance professionals, we need to have a presence here at the legislature and inform our representatives about what we need to be successful, which in our case, returns energy, water, health, environmental and many more benefits to citizens and businesses across the state,” said Stabasefski.
NCBPA assembled a team of energy services companies, energy efficiency contractors, green builders and product representatives to lend their voices to the advocacy efforts. Over the two days, attendees met with 30 legislators and scheduled future meetings with several more.
“Our summary message of ‘Energy Efficiency First’ is easy to understand and just makes sense,” said Ryan Miller, NCBPA’s Founder, Executive Director and Principal Lobbyist. “We’re not asking for money. We’re not asking for mandates. We’re forming innovative policy strategies that North Carolina can implement to achieve a 16.8% reduction in energy usage through short-term cost-effective projects and long-term strategies with buildings, which account for 65% of our state’s total energy usage. This bill is a big step towards our goal,” said Miller.
Policy Innovation and Leadership
For the first three years of NCBPA’s existence, the association and its members found themselves mostly watching from the sidelines as the state’s renewable energy industry made tremendous policy strides that pushed North Carolina to have the second most installed solar in the entire country. In the two years since, NCBPA released its 2017 Energy Efficiency Roadmap and 2018 Energy Efficiency Potential Report that detail the wealth of benefits and savings available to North Carolina through increased policy and workforce investment in building energy efficiency. As a result of this work, the association formed its 2019 Legislative Agenda and has since led the filing of two bills: one for energy services performance contracting and a second to enable Commercial Property Assesses Capital Expenditures (C-PACE) Financing.
“If North Carolina were to fully act on the policy, utility and workforce development opportunities available through our industry, the state would save $13.9 Billion in energy over the next ten years,” said Aaron Hope of Southern Energy Management. “With those energy savings, people would also be healthier, businesses would see increased productivity, we’d have healthier school environments for our children and there would be vast economic and environmental benefits as well,” said Hope.
The “Efficient Government Buildings & Savings Act”
The association’s top priority for 2019 is to enable House Bill 330 “Efficient Government Buildings & Savings Act” of 2019 with primary sponsors Rep. John Szoka (R-45), Rep. Dean Arp (R-69), Rep. Stephen Ross (R-63) and Rep. Chris Humphrey (R-12). Filed yesterday, the legislation is anticipated to avoid nearly $1.1 Billion in utility costs between 2018 and 2025 and net North Carolina taxpayers $252 Million in savings by establishing new energy and water conservation goals for public buildings of 40% and 30%, respectively. The prior goals of 30% and 20% by 2015 resulted in more than $1.4 Billion in taxpayer savings since 2003 through roughly $60 Million of state funding.
“Many state agencies and institutions have positively responded to Senator Janet Cowell’s original S668 2007-08 legislation to lower their energy usage, improve how their buildings perform and contribute taxpayer savings to the State budget,” said Tim Gasper of Siemens Industry. “This legislation mainly extends S668’s goals therefore allowing the state to benefit from many more years of improved health and safety for North Carolina citizens living and working in these buildings, improved productivity through more functional buildings and more efficient and less costly operations through reduced maintenance and upkeep,” said Gasper.
Legislators Respond with Support
In addition to the “Efficient Government Buildings & Savings Act” filed yesterday, NCBPA and its members are working towards additional legislation that garnered strong support from legislators last week. In particular, the addition of an industry professional knowledge of building energy efficiency and renewable energy to the 17-member North Carolina Building Code Council was widely considered a needed step to support the state’s continued growth as a clean energy leader in the nation. Several Senators expressed interest in sponsoring the bill and will be meeting with NCBPA staff this week to discuss this new legislation.
Energy code exemptions for residential and commercial buildings were the last of three primary talking points over the two days. In 2018, the legislature passed a regulatory bill that removed all energy efficiency requirements from attached residential garages, causing concern in the state’s building performance industry. In prior years, the legislature exempted warehouse, storage and data center buildings from being built to the current commercial energy code. NCBPA members voiced concerns about this precedent and provided hard data on up-front costs and long-term gains of energy efficient construction to support their positions.
“Sometimes energy efficient construction does cost more up-front, but there’s a reason for that,” said Jeff Mang, representing PIMA. Citing NCBPA research and data provided by the North Carolina Department of Insurance, Mang continued, “For new homes, a $204 to $611 up-front builder expense for improved energy efficiency would cost a homeowner $1 to $3 per month on their mortgage but would save them $7 to $10 per month on energy utility bills for the life of the home. The small up-front cost provides a two to six-year payback period with 24 to 28 years of positive cash flow on a traditional 30-year mortgage,” said Mang.
Going Forward, It’s Energy Efficiency First
Lobby Day participants wrapped up their busy schedule with a meeting at the office of Governor Roy Cooper to discuss legislation that advocates hope will make it to the Governor’s desk during the 2019 session. The energy and water savings goals provided in the “Efficient Government Buildings & Savings Act” more closely align with those provided in Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order #80, which last October directed cabinet-level public buildings to reduce energy consumption by 40 percent by 2025. The bill filed today includes all building types, most particularly all state agencies and institutions.
“The long-term benefits our industry receives by establishing supportive relationships with policy makers is invaluable,” said Alysa Watkins of Schneider Electric. “As an industry professional, you don’t need to policy experience to participate. What’s important is that you speak from the heart, provide data-driven evidence to support your position and make sure the net impact to North Carolina’s citizens is a good one. Building performance and energy efficiency do just that,” said Watkins.
For More Information
NCBPA welcomes all opportunities to work with builders, contractors, product suppliers and all other industry stakeholders interested in supporting these important policy activities. The association has a wealth of workforce development, consumer education, market valuation and other initiatives underway that will bring success to our industry and benefits to our customers for many years to come.
“Our industry companies know how to help building owners and operators save energy and improve building performance through cost-effective design, construction and maintenance practices,” said Miller. “Now, the job of our industry trade association is to push the envelope through policy, workforce and other market developments to make us all more successful,” said Miller.