In energy policy, lawmakers often prefer carrots to sticks, because this strategy minimizes the opposition. But mandatory rules, like building energy codes, can save energy and pay back several times over during the useful life of buildings.
The state of Illinois is poised to become a regional leader by adopting the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), an example of small-seeming rules with big impact. For example, 40 percent of primary energy consumption in the U.S. is in buildings, along with about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, adopting the 2012 IECC, with energy efficiency standards 28 percent stronger than the 2006 code, can make a big dent in carbon emissions.
The financial savings can add up, as well. The federal Energy Information Administration estimated in 2005 that homeowners in the Midwest spent an average of $1,800 per year on household energy use. Assuming states had already adopted the 2006 IECC for the previous expenditure figure, the implementation of the 2012 code could save families $500 per year.