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Bedford Sets Home Energy-Efficiency Standards

Tough benchmarks will impact large-scale renovations as well as new construction.

Come July, all new or even extensively renovated homes in Bedford will have to meet stringent energy-conservation standards, the Town Board voted this week.

The standards, covering such things as insulation, lighting and appliances, will be required benchmarks after July 1 for both building permits and certificates of occupancy. Standards compliance will include a home energy rating system, or HERS, number. The number—the lower the better—will provide both a measure of the home’s energy efficiency and a report showing the most effective ways to improve it. The rating will also let buyers compare the energy efficiency of different homes on the market.

Costs associated with meeting the new standards—a HERS inspection was put at between $1,000 and $2,500—would likely be offset by savings in outlays for home energy expenses, Building Inspector Steven Fraietta told the Town Board at a public hearing Tuesday.

“You’re probably going to be saving 20 to 30 percent of your energy cost,” he said. “You’re going to be saving lots of money.”

The Energy Conservation Construction Code for Residential Dwellings will apply to all new home construction as well as renovations to at least 75 percent of an existing home’s interior wall and ceiling space.

The cornerstone of the new program will be the HERS regimen. It will be a required minimum to receive a certificate of occupancy and will be one of two programs that qualify for building permits.

An alternative energy-efficiency program—the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star initiative, introduced 20 years ago—will also qualify for new construction only.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Howland Robinson, a Bedford Hills resident and a lawyer, challenged both the constitutionality of the new code and the sufficiency of notice for the hearing itself. Most homeowners contemplating extensive renovations were likely unaware of the proposed code change and its single hearing, he said.

Referring to the code’s individual provisions, he asked, “If they are so wonderfully cost-efficient, why do you all have to get involved in regulating it?” Instead of a single public hearing on a law, he proposed a series of educational meetings on money-saving energy efficiency steps. “In these economically troubled times,” he said, “that should do it.”

In a separate but energy-cost-related presentation, Maria Fields and Michael Gordon of the Northern Westchester Energy Action Coalition (NWEAC) briefed the board on a program—under way elsewhere—that would let Bedford residents buy electricity at bulk rates.

The price of energy reflects the cost of both supply and delivery. Local utilities such as Con Edison and New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG)provide delivery and, optionally, the electric supply, too. But the supply end has been opened to competition, letting individual homeowners buy their electricity from energy service companies (ESCOs) instead of the utility.

Under the energy coalition’s proposal, however, Bedford residents could leverage the benefits of buying in bulk by joining a so-called “aggregate group.” The group would automatically collect, or aggregate, all residents but allow anyone who chooses to opt out.

For now, it’s all largely talk, centered on Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), which at least five other states—California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Rhode Island—have adopted as an energy-buying alternative.

“CCA allows a municipality to set up an electric-buying group and save its residents money on electricity,” Gordon told the board. But it would require state legislation to establish a Bedford CCA, an avenue NWEAC is exploring, he said.

In other action Tuesday the board:

SET March 6 for a public hearing on NYSEG’s application for a special-use permit at its Cantitoe Street substation;

NAMED longtime Conservation Board member Jane Pearl to an associate’s post, opening up a seat on the board;

SELECTED Fiona Mitchell from a field of candidates to succeed Richard Strongwater on the Wetlands Control Commission;

SCHEDULED public information meetings March 19 on Crusher Road remediation efforts and March 20 on the water district filtration plant.     

Joe Doakes February 24, 2012 at 04:30 PM
You people do realize that the cost of energy is a function of it's supply, and that is a function of demand, and when that demand drops the cost will necessarily rise. All of you people with those big houses with those swimming pools take note. You are going to be paying for someone else's good intentions. And we all know where the road to good intentions leads. Hell . . .
Mark Thielking February 28, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Joe - A fundamental rule of supply and demand is when demand declines for any good or service, the cost of the good declines as well. Think gasoline prices in the summer driving season or the price of that super hot X-Mass toy that every kid wants under the tree. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply_and_demand But given this is not Econ 101, you are actually half right in your argument. The Electrical delivery system set up in NY is based on everyone paying a slice of maintaining the infrastructure to deliver electrical power. It's a monopoly system where NYSEG and ConEd will always be able to charge the consumer for this service. This slice of your electric bill makes up about 40-50% of the total bill. Where you are incorrect is the price we pay for the supply of electricity which is variable and highly effected by demand. The less demand, the less cost to the consumer. Even better, if demand goes down low enough, the need to maintain old and highly polluting power stations is eliminated as well and are shut down. It gets even better than this too: the need to build super expensive new plants (which clearly raise the cost of supply) is eliminated too. But I think we are missing the point of this new ordinance: it really benefits the homeowner's heating costs (Oil, Gas) which is a much bigger cost for most homes (heating makes up 60-80% of total energy costs). Unless you heat with electricity (about 8% Bedford homes), the benefit of efficient homes will be very significant.

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