Coding Innovation

Coding Innovation

The Critical Role of Codes and Standards in Advancing Technology

This piece was originally published in the October 2016 issue of electroindustry.

Jill Marver, Senior Technical Specialist, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E)


The nearing effective date (January 1, 2017) of California’s 2016 Title 24 Part 6, Building Energy Code, and recent changes to the state’s Title 20 appliance standards spotlight the importance of codes and standards in advancing energy efficiency.

Realizing the full benefits of progressive standards, however, depends on compliance. The utility industry increasingly recognizes the critical role of not only supporting the development and adoption of these standards, but compliance with them as well The statewide codes and standards (C&S) program provides a model multi-pronged approach to furthering efficiency through code adoption and compliance.

California is at the forefront of many advancements in building code and appliance standards across the nation, forging a path for federally adopted codes to follow (e.g., the International Energy Conservation Code® and those developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers). Because of these advancements, the federal government and many states now recognize that codes and standards are an extremely cost-effective way to transform a market. They provide an end-point for measures that have been publicly supported through utility or other programs.

However, adoption into code is only one chapter in the product cycle for an energy-efficiency measure, as the codes only have an impact if people comply with them. This is a closed feedback loop; a lagging step reduces innovation for the whole industry. Once a product or service reaches a significant market share, regulation through codes and standards extends the market change achieved through early adopters to others less inclined to participate in voluntary programs. Regulation, therefore, completes the market transformation process and captures societal benefits.

Less well-known and less understood is the role of regulation in innovation. Adoption into code is a process of commoditization in which a technology or service that was once a high-margin product becomes the industry standard. Commoditization reduces price, which, in turn, stimulates innovation, since most companies prefer a competitive strategy that includes, at least in part, high-margin, differentiated products.

The C&S program influences continual advances in energy-efficiency regulations, improves compliance with existing codes and standards, and works with local governments to develop ordinances that exceed statewide minimum requirements. The C&S program activities in advocacy and compliance improvement extend to virtually all buildings and potentially any appliance in California (and beyond).

The principal audience for the program’s advocacy activities is the California Energy Commission, which conducts periodic rulemakings to update building and appliance energy efficiency regulations usually on a three-year cycle. Currently, the program is sponsoring 2019 Title 24 stakeholder meetings and encouraging interested parties to become part of the process by attending them.

Compliance improvement activities complement and enhance advocacy by maximizing savings from codes and standards that persist over time. Using a performance-based approach, the program develops tools, training, and resources provided via Make your voice heard on the 2019 Title 24 standards by participating in a stakeholder meeting. Sign up at

Read the October 2016 issue of electroindustry.

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