Energy codes are not new; the first energy conservation code appeared in the 70s as a reaction to that decades energy crisis. However, the major energy codes in use around the country, the International Energy Conservation Code and ASHRAE 90.1, have been primarily focused on the building envelop and mechanical systems with little emphasis directly related to the electrical industry. There are some significant requirements for lighting and lighting controls, and to a lesser extent, motor and transformer efficiency, and scattered other electrical requirements, but these comprise relatively minor sections of the energy codes compared to building components such as insulation, glazing, and mechanical system efficiency and controls.
The electrical industry has taken a more proactive approach in response to the nations energy crisis and sustainability goals. The manufacturers of most electrical equipment have taken notice, as evidenced by the strategic initiatives articulated and advocated by NEMA outlining the electrical manufacturers commitment to producing more energy efficient products. NEMA has been at the forefront of efforts to address environmental concerns and conserve electrical energy, advocating for legislation at the federal level to set minimum environmental standards and at the federal and local levels to increase energy efficiency in electrical generation, transmission, distribution, and end-use products. (See NEMAs home page at http://www.nema.org/ for links to additional information on these initiatives).
The electrical industry has traditionally focused on electrical installations and inspections for compliance with safety codes and standards like the National Electrical Code ® and the International Building Code with good reason. These and other requirements make our buildings, and the people who use them, safer from electrical and fire hazards on a daily basis. But as important as this is, in the long run, our most important legacy may be how we address the current energy and climate crises as an industry. With serious political unrest in many of the oil producing regions of the world, the cost and availability of petroleum based products are uncertain and have become matters of national security. So there truly is no better time to become aware of, involved, and proactive with respect to energy.