Bend city councilors are trying to be kind to the environment with their goal of reducing community fossil fuel use by 40 percent by 2030 and 70 percent by 2050. The next topic up for discussion by the committee developing policies to achieve the goals is energy efficiency in buildings.
One policy option: Ask the Legislature for more leeway so Bend could require tougher energy standards for new buildings than required by state law. A second: Require that every time a single-family home is sold in Bend, a home energy audit is performed to disclose the energy efficiency to the buyer.
Neither should happen. The first would virtually guarantee that erecting buildings in Bend would be more expensive. The second would drive up the prices of single-family homes. And the council directed the committee not to come up with requirements. The committee should stick to voluntary policies.
That said, building efficiency is a great place to look for Bend to save energy and reduce emissions. Buildings are a large source of emissions and energy use. And building improvements can be calculated to pay off over time. An analysis for the city estimated that the largest sources of local emissions are energy use by buildings — homes and commercial. It’s about 57 percent of the total. Transportation comes in second at about 36 percent.
Higher voluntary energy standards for homes and commercial buildings in Bend could be good for the environment and save people money in the long run. And a home energy audit — which can cost $300 on up — can identify cost-effective ways for homeowners to save money. There’s nothing wrong with the city encouraging both.
But the council was careful to specify that Bend’s goals of reducing fossil fuel use are goals, not mandates. And the council was careful to specify that the committee was supposed to identify voluntary actions to achieve the goals. Stick to the council’s directives.