The California Energy Commission earlier this month unanimously adopted a new set of more stringent building standards for homes and commercial buildings, promising to shave the state’s peak demand by up to the equivalent of 150 to 180 MW after their first full year in use at the end of 2006. The new standards are to be effective October 2005.

The updated rules will apply to new construction and renovations, resulting from a year of public workshops by the energy commission staff. Greater energy efficiency for heating, air conditioning, ventilation and lighting is supposed to result from the new standards.

A varying group of stakeholders has endorsed the new standards, ranging from manufacturers and building industry organizations to the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the nation’s most active environmental groups on energy related issues. NRDC was one of the outside groups credited with helping hammer out the new standards.

Noah Horowitz, a senior NRDC scientist based in San Francisco, said the standards will help California “continue to lead the nation in energy efficiency,” according to a report in the Sacramento Bee. He estimated energy use in homes and commercial building eventually will be cut by 10% or the equivalent energy from one average new power plant.

The building industry acknowledged the new guidelines as “thorough and rigorous,” but also estimated construction costs will increase $1,500 to $2,000/new home as a result of the new standards. Energy commission estimates for the added costs in a new 2,200-square-foot home are between $500 and $1,760, with the estimated savings from reduced utility bills over the life of the home at $1,540 to $3,700.

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