Green house

Oregon is all-in on finding ways to reduce carbon emissions.

The state is pushing to usurp the car with walking, biking and transit. It’s come up with new regulations that will have more Oregonians living closer together to cut down on travel.

And legislators met this week to talk about what could be done about buildings, old and new. Buildings, the state says, are the second biggest emitters of carbon after transportation.

There is no firm plan, yet. A task force is developing ideas. As long as the political make-up of the Legislature and the governor’s office doesn’t change, expect green changes for buildings.

The state might put a limit on greenhouse gases per square foot for new buildings. That way the state wouldn’t dictate how a building achieved the goal. Of course, the setting of the limit would be very important. We didn’t hear a suggested number at this week’s meeting.

Upgrading older buildings can be challenging. Many homes in Oregon were built before energy codes that required more efficiency kicked in. Energy codes didn’t get their start in the state until the mid-1970s. And if you look at the housing stock of the state, about half of the state’s homes were built before then. So what to do?

One idea is to implement what Bend has been working on — a home energy score. That’s like a miles per gallon rating for the energy efficiency of a home. If the state required one when a home was sold, it might provide an incentive for more people to upgrade their homes.

Another idea is to change the mission of the Energy Trust of Oregon. The Energy Trust works with almost all the natural gas customers in Oregon and about 75% of the electricity customers. It has all sorts of programs to encourage more efficiency. For instance, you can get cash incentives for your home. Check them out here: www.energytrust.org/residential/incentive/

The suggestion is to change the Energy Trust’s mission in two ways. It would be given a mission to dedicate itself to equity. And it would no longer be neutral on the source of energy, such as gas or electricity. It would be directed to prioritize electricity use and not gas. Obviously that would not be popular with natural gas companies, some natural gas customers and others. And because the Energy Trust does not serve some Oregon customers, the state would likely want to find a way so all Oregonians get access to Energy Trust-like benefits.

The task force also discussed again this week the idea of allowing individual communities in Oregon to establish their own building energy standards. It would mean more local control. Some communities might decide stricter standards are best for them. But that idea would also create complications for builders, developers and workers who might have to adapt to a confusing patchwork of regulations across the state.

The aim is for the task force to develop legislation for the 2023 session. There is more information about it here, tinyurl.com/ORbuildingstaskforce.

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