Letter to the Editor: Support for Specialized Energy Code for New Construction

Submitted by Karen Willson, Member Bedford Mothers Out Front Chapter Leadership Team

Voters at the Nov. 6 Special Town Meeting have the opportunity to opt into a new building code. The Select Board, Planning Board, Finance Committee, and the Energy and Sustainability Committee all voted to recommend its passage. 

The Specialized Energy Code applies only to new buildings and not to renovations or additions to existing structures. It encourages all-electric construction, but does not prohibit gas. Buildings that use oil, gas, or propane must have solar panels and be pre-wired for future electrification. These provisions protect home buyers from costly retrofits to electrify down the road and will save them money on electric bills. 

Because all-electric buildings don’t burn fossil fuels on-site, the indoor air is free of toxic fumes that contribute to childhood asthma. There’s no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, gas leaks, or explosions. When powered by 100% renewable electricity through Bedford’s Community Choice Aggregation program, all-electric buildings produce no climate-destroying greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

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State law mandates that we reduce GHG emissions 50% by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050. Statewide, we’ll need to decarbonize the bulk of our building stock through electrification to meet these mandates. The Specialized Code prevents adding more buildings to Bedford’s inventory that will one day require retrofits to comply with the state mandates for emissions reduction. It’s much less expensive to pre-wire buildings at the time of construction than to retrofit existing structures. 

A 2023 study by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources compared costs for various all-electric and mixed fuel buildings using matched sets. The all-electric buildings had both lower construction and annual operating costs than the mixed fuel buildings. All-electric homes are less expensive to build for two main reasons: It costs less to install a single heat pump for both heating and cooling than two separate systems, and there’s no costly gas line. In addition, significant rebates and tax incentives for heat pumps and high-efficiency electric appliances are available to home builders. 

Ask questions and learn more at the Community Forum on the Specialized Energy Code on Oct.18 from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. in person at Town Hall in the Reed Room and on Zoom. The event is co-sponsored by the Bedford Energy and Sustainability Committee and Mothers Out Front. 

Then join me in voting YES on Article 15 on Nov.6 for our children’s future buildings and climate.

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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