Taking Stock of 2016 Gains at Energy Efficiency for All

As we look ahead to 2017, we take heart in and celebrate the extraordinary successes and momentum that our Energy Efficiency for All partnership has achieved in 2016.

Driven by collaboration between dozens of local, state and national groups, Energy Efficiency for All has secured more than $300 million in additional funding in 10 states for energy efficiency in affordable multifamily housing that will significantly improve the lives of limited-income residents by lowering their energy burden and creating healthier living environments, while cutting energy use and harmful emissions.

Energy Efficiency for All begins with the idea that low income communities who would most benefit from energy efficiency are least able to access it. A study that Energy Efficiency for All published this year with ACEEE finds that low-income households devote up to three times as much income to energy costs as average households in the same city, and that energy efficiency is critical to closing the gap.

At the heart of our work lie strong and diverse state coalitions consisting of environmental, affordable housing, consumer rights, and environmental justice organizations. These solid and ever broadening collaborations have set the stage for additional progress in 2017 and beyond. Best of all, since most of the progress is due to leadership by state policymakers, it provides models and support for similar initiatives by the incoming Trump administration.

Sweeping Clean Energy Reforms in Illinois Include Benefits for Low-Income Families

One of the most significant victories, the passage of the Future Energy Jobs bill in Illinois, for example, was achieved by a mighty coalition of energy, housing, environmental justice, faith, labor, business, and other groups. That bill will mean the creation of tens of thousands of new, clean-energy jobs, a reduction in energy use by Commonwealth Edison and Ameren by 21 and 16 percent respectively by 2030, and the provision of an additional $16.5 million a year for efficiency programs for low-income households over the next 13 years. Elevate Energy and other Energy Efficiency for All partners spearheaded the carve-out for energy efficiency measures in low-income households and will work to ensure that a substantial portion of that is allocated to multifamily residences.

Major Expansion of Low Income Energy Efficiency to Multifamily in California

In another significant victory, the California Public Utilities Commission expanded its existing low-income energy efficiency program to include rent-assisted multifamily buildings. The commission allocated $80 million for major energy saving measures for this sector and broadened eligible measures to include central water heaters and common-area lighting. In addition, utilities for the first time are required to meet energy savings goals. These advances were the culmination of years of efforts by a coalition including Energy Efficiency for All, the California Housing Partnership, National Consumer Law Center, and the GREEN-EEFA Coalition Network.

Energy Efficiency in Affordable Multifamily Buildings Advanced in Many Others States

Missouri regulators and companies also advanced new funding for energy efficiency in low income multifamily homes. Ameren and Kansas City Power and Light, the state’s largest utilities, committed $10.8 million and $4.8 million respectively to programs that help deliver energy efficiency upgrades to multifamily buildings. In other parts of the country, Pennsylvania utilities committed another $8 million for multifamily efficiency measures; in Minnesota, utilities promised an additional $7 million; and in Washington, D.C., and Maryland—as a condition of a merger and the culmination of a two-year negotiation in which EEFA was a leading participant—utilities allotted more than $19.5 million for the sector.

To help ensure investments are made effectively, we saw improvements across our 12 states in the implementation of programs and funding commitments that have important impacts on energy efficiency, such as guaranteed aggregated data for multifamily buildings, higher incentives for energy efficiency measures in low-income multifamily buildings, and opportunities for future collaboration.

EEFA Coalition Organizes in Maryland to Protect Critical Energy Efficiency Programs

For example, drawing on the power of coalitions to fend off the erosion of earlier gains, the Maryland Energy Efficiency Advocates coalition mobilized dozens of housing agencies, small businesses and environmental groups as part of the effort to protect the historic EmPOWER Maryland energy efficiency programs. At stake is $30 million in home improvements annually for single-family and multifamily energy efficiency for low- and limited-income residents.

Locally Focused Engagement Supports New Orleans Communities

Similarly, we helped slow down a rush to approve a new natural gas-fired power plant planned for a historically disadvantaged, minority community in New Orleans. This more deliberate process is a product of collaboration with an impressive existing coalition that over the year had succeeded at establishing a state energy efficiency target and an affordable multifamily building energy efficiency program.

Coalitions we have built in the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeast can help advance and defend critical affordable housing and anti-poverty priorities nationally. Energy Efficiency for All’s ongoing commitment to building stronger and collaborative ties between environmental and affordable housing groups, and complementary community-based, justice and anti-poverty organizations, will be a powerful bulwark against any deterioration of protections for the environment and our society’s most vulnerable.

As we finish off 2016, we find that we have achieved a lot, demonstrated the power of coalition-building and laid the groundwork for future success. With our partners in the Network for Water, Health and Affordable Buildings, we look forward to 2017 with confidence that our growing collaborations and partnerships will move us closer to our goal of delivering energy efficiency for all, especially in what may be challenging times.

About the Authors

Cai Steger

Senior Director, Resilient Communities, Healthy People & Thriving Communities program

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