Commercial Energy Code Compliance Enhancement Pilot
A number of programs aimed at comprehensive energy code compliance have been piloted or rolled out in other parts of the country over the last few years. Despite the important potential that this type of program has to contribute to Minnesota’s 1.5% annual savings goal for CIP programs, no utilities in Minnesota currently offer such a program. While a combination of utility staff uncertainties about optimal utility program design and cost-effectiveness in a state with relatively low utility rates are barriers to the implementation of such programs in Minnesota, another key factor is historical CIP program policies in the state that have not allowed these programs to claim savings against the 1.5% goal or cost-reclamation mechanisms. Policy discussions within the last few years have suggested that increased code compliance programs could now be given credit for energy savings, but there has still been no precedent set for this in Minnesota.
Although commercial energy code compliance in Minnesota is relatively good, there is reason to believe that there is still the potential to achieve significant energy savings through increased compliance. Studies in other states have shown that even where there is a high percentage of compliance with energy code line-items, substantial energy performance improvements can be accomplished by bringing the remaining items up to the code level of performance. Moreover, the adoption of a more complex energy code in 2015 has led to confusion in the building industry, with both city building department staff and designers reporting being overwhelmed. It is, therefore, expected that energy code compliance rates may drop, leaving even more potential for energy savings through increased compliance.
In response to the above circumstances, the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) undertook this project to test the potential to cost-effectively achieve CIP program savings by providing guidance and technical assistance to designers and/or city plan reviewers in a way that would improve compliance with the Minnesota Energy Code. The goals were to establish a local precedent for utility-funded energy code compliance enhancement programs in Minnesota that could serve as a model for the development of full-scale programs, and to evaluate the pilot program so that valuable information and recommendations from the experience will be available for utility staff and CIP program regulators.