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Energy efficiency benefits all Granite Staters

The Granite State is experiencing a real housing crisis. For too many, affordable housing is not available or accessible in their communities, making it hard to attract and retain a talented workforce. One way we make housing more affordable for families is by modernizing our building codes to prioritize energy efficiency, which will help cut down on energy bills for thousands of Granite Staters.

Modern energy codes benefit Granite Staters — especially hard-working families that spend a disproportionate amount of income on heating bills. Right now, New Hampshire adheres to the established building energy codes from 2018 — but the state has a unique and time-critical opportunity to make a modest, but meaningful, shift to the 2021 building energy codes. Doing so would save Granite Staters money — according to the U.S. Department of Energy, owners and renters could save more than $500 a year on utility bills, allowing upfront costs to be recouped quickly and providing more than $10,000 in net savings over the life of a typical mortgage.

If the state does not take action, it will be leaving millions in federal funding on the table.

These codes were not developed in a vacuum. In fact, home builders held one-third of the seats on the residential committee during development of the 2021 building energy codes, and the final 2021 codes earned approval from public officials that take part in this consensus-based process.

That’s why it was particularly disappointing to see the recent op-ed by Matt Mayberry, executive vice president of the New Hampshire Home Builders Association, where he confused myths with facts when describing his efforts to prevent New Hampshire from adopting the latest building energy codes.

The fact is that investing in energy efficiency is the cheapest and fastest way to meet our energy needs and save Granite Staters money on their utility bills. Additionally, adopting the latest building energy codes will help ensure that we are adding resilient homes to our housing stock that provide safe, comfortable houses that occupants can afford to live in for years to come.

Another fact: Failing to adopt the latest energy codes will leave millions in federal funding on the table and cost New Hampshire households money.

Energy efficiency is not a partisan issue. It has long been a bipartisan, common-sense solution to address significant energy costs facing families. I know from personal experience, having partnered with former U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) for years to deliver on a number of key energy efficiency measures. In the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we secured $225 million to help states and localities implement updated building codes.

Congress took further action through the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides even more for energy efficiency and updating building energy codes. New Hampshire is now eligible for nearly $2.5 million in federal funding to adopt the 2021 building energy codes.

If New Hampshire takes advantage of these funds — as the state has done many times with federal funding to support housing development — it would allow for workforce development and training for architects, code officials, builders, construction trades and developers.

To dispel another myth: Moving to the latest building energy codes will not halt housing production. Housing developers from Dover to Conway are already building to, or beyond, the 2021 standards, demonstrating that energy efficient housing stock can be built successfully and contribute to housing affordability. I have heard from nonprofit and for-profit developers from across New Hampshire who prioritize energy efficiency and are supportive of adopting the 2021 building energy codes.

Accessing the nearly $2.5 million in federal funding that is available to New Hampshire only requires a move to the 2021 building energy codes — not a move toward net zero development, as Mr. Mayberry suggests. There are additional funds available if New Hampshire chooses to adopt a net zero code, but the fact is that net zero code is not required to receive federal funding for the 2021 energy codes.

I’ll end on a note of agreement with Mr. Mayberry. He’s right when he says: “the debate over the 2021 energy codes has been full of hyperbole, exaggerations and political spin.” Unfortunately, much of that is due to opponents’ confusion of fact and myth. And those who will be impacted are Granite Staters forced to pay higher prices should New Hampshire fail to move to the 2021 building energy codes.