Its recent problems notwithstanding, California continues to light a path to the rest of the nation for policy change. In this case, the path would be lit with a device that uses considerably less power.

That is because on Jan. 1, 2010, California will introduce rigorous new codes that raise the energy efficiency of new construction 15 to 20 percent above 2005 standards. The codes, which come as amendments to the state’s current Title 24 policies, race ahead of national standards by more than 20 percent and promise significant energy and carbon savings. According to Flex Your Power, California’s statewide energy-efficiency marketing and outreach campaign, new homes built under the code could save their owners between $200 and $600 per year on energy bills.

The changes taking effect in January include the solar home partnership program, which will allow the installation of solar panels to be used as an offset for other areas of construction that might not meet the code requirements; stricter requirements for kitchen water pipe insulation; higher standards for roof, wall and floor insulation; minimum two-speed pumps in pools and spas; changes in lighting standards to require more efficient lamps; and green building codes aimed at encouraging projects to reach beyond Title 24.

The policy will also include more detailed green building standards that will be voluntary at first, but they may be adopted as requirements in cities and counties looking to get ahead.

A number of cities will be looking for ways to meet the carbon-reduction goals set by AB 32, California’s comprehensive “Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.”

The updated code will also apply to new retrofits and renovations. The higher efficiency standards had been scheduled to go into effect on Aug. 1, 2009, but the California Energy Commission postponed the rules until next year to allow time to complete its public domain compliance software.