On January 8, 2008, the Assembly and the Senate each introduced a bill (A1629, S702) that would, if enacted, amend Section 5 of the Uniform Construction Code Act (P.L. 1975, c.217) codified at N.J.S.A. 52:27D-123, to empower the Department of Community Affairs to adopt an energy subcode that exceeds national model code standards. Specifically, under this proposed legislation, the Commissioner of Community Affairs “[s]hall be authorized to amend the energy subcode to establish enhanced energy conservation construction requirements, the added cost of which may reasonably be expected to be recovered through energy conservation over a period of not more than seven years.” Any such amendment or supplement to the model code requirements shall be based “upon 10-year energy price projections provided by the Board of Public Utilities.”

 

In this regard, this legislative proposal seeks to amend Section 9 of P.L. 1977, c.146, codified as N.J.S.A. 52:27F-11, to augment the powers and responsibilities of the Board of Public Utilities and give the BPU a considerable amount of influence over the promulgation of State energy-efficient building standards.

 

Assembly bill A1629 and Senate bill S702 would also require the Board of Public Utilities to offer qualified buyers of new homes meeting the enhanced energy subcode requirements down payment assistance through its residential facilities energy conservation program in consultation with the Department of Community Affairs and the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. This down payment assistance shall be limited to either “the additional cost of construction required in order to make a building, which otherwise would conform to the current edition of the International Energy Code, also conform to the enhanced energy conservation construction requirements [to be] established by the Commissioner of Community Affairs” or “the additional down payment required in order to qualify the purchaser or purchasers for mortgage financing without the requirement of private mortgage insurance[,]” whichever is less.

 

Although Assembly bill A1629 and Senate bill S702 are working their way through the legislative process, their future is yet uncertain. Should this piece of proposed legislation become law it could have a profound impact upon the state of energy-efficient building in New Jersey depending, of course, on the comprehensiveness of the energy subcode that might ultimately be adopted by the DCA.