Written collaboratively by Lamisa Chowdhury and Laura Goldberg
Plan Approval & Overview
The Missouri Public Service Commission just approved the largest energy efficiency plan in state history. The plan will save Ameren Missouri’s customers millions of dollars on their energy bills, and includes dozens of programs with more than $120 million in rebates available beginning in March.
Ameren expects to invest over $200 million in energy efficiency programs over the life of the plan, with those targeted to limited-income families running until 2025 and other programs running until 2022.
These new energy efficiency investments should lead to lower energy bills, reduced energy consumption, and less pollution overall. The plan will also play a key role in helping the utility reach its goal of reducing carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. Ameren President Michael Moehn says “customers are going to have new, meaningful ways to save money, enjoy more control over their energy use and positively impact the environment.”
New, Expanded Programs for Limited-Income Families
Ameren’s plan includes over $50 million in investments for programs designed for families and communities with limited incomes, its largest contribution yet. The plan’s expanded low-income single family and multifamily energy efficiency programs, will provide long-term solutions, such as providing insulation and replacing inefficient AC units, to address the high energy costs that burden limited income families, which are three times higher than those of other households. This burden is even worse in certain parts of Missouri and for certain households. For example, 2016 research showed that one-quarter of low-income multifamily households in St. Louis spend almost 13 percent of their income on energy utility costs.
Energy Efficiency & Preserving Affordable Housing
The low-income multifamily offerings in Ameren’s plan were heavily influenced by collaborative conversations between Ameren Missouri and two housing organizations, National Housing Trust (NHT) and Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation (Tower Grove), before the utility rate proceeding began. Both organizations also intervened in the rate case to put their expertise in affordable housing preservation and energy efficiency on the record. NHT and Tower Grove are members of the Energy Efficiency for All Project (EEFA), a national collaborative effort to make multifamily housing healthy and affordable through energy efficiency. The project works in 13 states, including Missouri—where housing and energy groups take part in local Missouri Energy Efficiency for All (MO EEFA) advocacy and collaboration. While other MO EEFA partners, such as NRDC and Renew Missouri, intervened in the Ameren case, having housing partners involved firsthand in the advocacy was critical for the successful expansion of the low-income multifamily program.
According to Annika Brink at NHT, Ameren was enthusiastic about having conversations before and during the case to discuss and collaboratively work through issues. Brink “really appreciated Ameren’s openness to conversations and seeking win-win solutions.” She notes that those conversations really paid off, because “with this plan Ameren is committing to invest more in low-income multifamily than it ever has before.”
Tower Grove’s Dana Gray says Ameren “was accommodating and willing to adapt their program to meet our recommendations so that the program met the needs of low-income communities.” A landlord herself, Gray is “very hopeful we will see more substantial energy efficiency investments and more significant improvements made.” During the proceeding, Gray provided the voice of a local affordable multifamily property owner and worked to ensure the plan would help limited-income families save money.
Low-Income Multifamily Program Expansion
What changes and improvements can affordable multifamily owners and tenants expect to Ameren’s multifamily program? First and foremost, a bigger program and one that grows over time to a very robust size in the later years of the plan. The program has a budget of $26 million over six years, and aims to reduce usage across multifamily affordable buildings by over 21 GWh, saving enough energy to power about 2,000 average homes for an entire year. And, most importantly, the program has a bigger emphasis on achieving deep, whole-building energy savings. Ameren has committed to achieving an average of 15 percent energy savings per multifamily property. In order to meet this goal, Ameren expects to offer more generous rebates, partner even closer with the local natural gas utility, Spire, and offer more technical assistance to owners in order to get them to commit to and follow through on the recommendations generated by a walk-through energy assessment.
Ameren will also be offering easier eligibility pathways, so that owners of affordable multifamily buildings will be able to qualify their buildings based on participation in affordability programs. Additionally, the company has committed to regular data reporting and collaborative conversations with low-income and community stakeholders, so they can adjust the program based on emerging feedback and evolving needs.
Reaping the Rewards
With Ameren Missouri’s new plan, Missouri residents can reap the many benefits of energy efficiency, from reduced utility bills to a cleaner environment because efficiency lessens the need to use polluting fossil fuels to generate energy. Due to the expanded low-income multifamily programs, each building touched by Ameren’s programs should have the opportunity to receive substantive efficiency work and deeper energy savings. This is can make a real and meaningful difference in multifamily building owners and tenants lives. As Annika Brink says, “For owners this might mean the opportunity to invest in other areas of the buildings. And for renters this means the opportunity to invest in other areas of their life, such as food, healthcare, and education.”
Visit Ameren’s website to learn how to take advantage of their energy efficiency programs. And look out for the new, expanded programs launching on March 1, 2019.