Agencies, Commissions, Boards Involved: 
Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE); Building Codes Division (BCD) 

POSITIVE_SIGN.pngWhat’s going well:

Oregon Dept. of Energy (ODOE) is pursuing appliance standards that will align the west coast from California to British Columbia on minimum standards. ODOE completed its rulemaking in August 2020 to update the ten appliance standards listed in OCAP as well as one additional product.  And, it is pursuing a bill in the 2021 legislative session to enshrine those appliance standards.  In addition to reducing emissions, ODOE estimates that the appliance efficiency standards will save Oregonians $35 million per year by 2030 and over $100 million per year by 2035.  

As part of the 2021 legislative effort, ODOE is also working to make sure they can more easily update standards consistent with other West Coast jurisdictions moving forward without requiring subsequent legislation. Future appliance standard updates will lead to energy and emissions reductions, while also lowering the cost to consumers. Aligning with regional players also helps accelerate the overall market adoption of efficiency technologies.

As required by OCAP, Building Codes Division (BCD) acknowledged the minimum building energy efficiency goal for 2030 of a 60 percent reduction in new building annual site consumption of energy as compared to the 2006 Oregon residential and commercial codes - essentially meaning that by 2030, new buildings should be built to zero energy ready standards.  

BCD is working on an update to the commercial code as well as the Reach Code.  The commercial code appears to be on track to be updated to the latest national version available.

The new Acting BCD Director is taking much needed actions to improve the process around building codes development.  For example, an opportunity was provided for the public to submit proposals on what the updated Reach Code should include and steps have been taken to align the Reach Code development process with the timeline for the adoption of the residential and commercial codes.

Areas for improvement:

BCD had the opportunity to set a strong foundation for achieving the 2030 goal with the current 2021 code update (which BCD delayed from 2020).  Unfortunately, the agency and it’s advisory boards are passing up the opportunity and deciding to move forward with a 2021 residential code that is unlikely to achieve more energy savings than the previous one.  As a result, the code updates in 2023, 2026, and 2029 will have to be even more ambitious to meet the 2030 goal.

A series of Street Roots articles in the Fall of 2020 documented a long-term, concerted effort by the past BCD Director to delay progress on building codes by stacking their advisory boards with industry interests and actively working to hold back local governments from moving further and faster.  Vestiges of those efforts remain and more process changes need to be made.

While ODOE has moved forward with the required appliance standard updates listed in OCAP, there were more appliances that ODOE could have included in the first rulemaking.  In addition, ODOE has not yet outlined a plan and timeline for how and when they plan to periodically update appliance efficiency standards moving forward. In addition, ODOE could put more attention towards ensuring the more energy efficient appliances get to those who need them the most.

Opportunities for progress:

It’s up to the Legislature to pass HB 2062, which would enshrine ODOE’s current appliance efficiency standards updates and provide more administrative flexibility to make further updates in the future. 

BCD  should ensure the residential code, commercial code, and Reach Code that are scheduled to be adopted this year, lay a strong foundation for achieving the 2030 goal.

BCD and the Governor can work together to further address the past BCD Director’s systematic efforts to hold back building code improvements by improving the public process around development of the building codes, including appointing more diverse advisory boards. 

Return to the full progress report