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Stringent Building Codes For Thee, But Not For Me

Stringent Building Codes For Thee, But Not For Me

The solar and wind industries (and Xcel Energy) are really, really mad that the International Codes Council (ICC) is considering beefing up resiliency standards for new wind and solar builds in the next iteration of its triennial building codes.

According to Utility Dive:

A Federal Emergency Management Agency advisory panel proposal that would increase construction standards to help ensure wind and solar projects operate through extreme weather would unnecessarily drive up costs, likely dooming some projects, clean energy companies and trade groups said Tuesday.

They urged International Code Council members to vote against the proposal, which would place most ground mounted large-scale solar and wind projects in Risk Category IV, the highest risk category, according to a letter from more than 300 clean energy companies to ICC voters.

“The stated goal of FEMA’s proposal is increased grid reliability, but when you needlessly make it harder to build resilient clean energy, the obvious effect is a reduction in reliability,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, one of the groups signing the letter, said in a statement. “This overreach is being made in an opaque process without input from experts on economic impacts, electric reliability and climate change.”

The irony is quite rich. When Colorado policymakers were considering the bill to make the 2021 ICC codes the baseline for homes and businesses in the state—with an addendum requiring wiring for on-site solar on all new builds—arguments about the impact of strict building codes on the cost of housing were cast aside.

The bill ultimately passed and was signed into law with the enthusiastic support of renewables advocates and trade groups.

Now, faced with the prospect of a strict code upgrade that threatens rather than aids their bottom line, the industry is suddenly persuaded by the argument that stringent building codes impact the cost of construction.

Funny how that works.