What, exactly, is the Specialized Energy Code that voters are being asked to approve at the Nov. 6 Special Town Meeting?
Bedford’s Energy and Sustainability Committee, assisted by Mothers Out Front, presented a forum on Wednesday evening in the Reed Room to answer residents’ questions about Article 15. One takeaway is that the proposed new code goes beyond the Stretch Energy Code that Bedford has already adopted. The proposed code encourages all-electric construction, but does not prohibit gas and applies only to new residential construction, not to additions or renovations of existing structures.
The Select Board, the Planning Board, and the Finance Committee favor adoption, which requires a majority vote. Read more at https://thebedfordcitizen.org/2023/07/select-board-adds-net-zero-friendly-code-to-upcoming-warrant/
The Forum, including a slide presentation and a question and answer portion, was recorded by Bedford TV and is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwYANA8g6D4.
Host Dan Bostwick of the Energy and Sustainability Committee introduced presenters Joanne Bissetta, Director of Green Communities Division of the MA Department of Energy Resources, and Michael Rossi of PSD Consulting. Bissetta noted that Bedford became a Green Community in 2011. As of today, 22 communities have adopted the Specialized Code, including Carlisle which approved it at their recent Town Meeting.
Bostwick pointed out that Bedford builds about 15 new residences per year. The multi-family projects on South Road and on the former Papa Gino’s site would not be subject to the Specialized Code if approved because they are already under construction. The Specialized Code does contain provisions for future buildings of this type.
Bostwick also noted that under the Specialized Code, all new homes, regardless of size, must be either all-electric or pre-wired if using fossil fuels. In addition, new homes of 4,000 square feet must meet higher energy efficiency standards only if they use fossil fuels.
The presentation included a slide of FAQs about the Specialized Energy Code. Here’s what was presented:
- Does the Opt-In Specialized Code apply to existing structures? No. Improvements to existing structures are regulated by the updated Stretch Code and Base Code (already adopted by Bedford.)
- Will the Opt-In code discourage the creation of affordable housing? No. Incentives will continue to encourage affordable housing while the Opt-in Specialized code delivers benefits to residents.
- Is it possible to install a gas cooktop? Yes. This is permitted under the Mixed Fuel pathways.
- Why adopt the Opt-in Specialized Code? The top reason is that it requires pre-wiring, avoiding costly retrofits down the road, and expediting electrification.
- Why does the Opt-in Specialized Code permit fossil fuels? It preserves market choice at a time when utility pricing is highly volatile and utility costs vary 300 percent among Massachusetts communities. “Net zero” definitions vary widely.