Angela Guyadeen, NRDc, 312-651-7936
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (March, 13, 2015) – Saving money is always a good thing. Saving money and power is even better. Today, a multifamily affordable housing network discussed potential policy recommendations to increase energy efficiency in multifamily housing structures throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. The diverse group of housing and environmental organizations unveiled a slate of policy suggestions and began discussions of implementing them in the areas served by Ameren Missouri, Laclede Gas, and Ameren Illinois.
Missouri Public Service Commission Chairman Robert Kenney, who served as the host and a participant on today’s panel said, “The Commission’s job is to ensure that electric and gas bills are just and reasonable. Therefore, it is vitally important that energy efficiency services, which can lower household energy bills, are adequately serving the customers who are spending a high proportion of their income on electricity and gas services. I look forward to sharing this report with my colleagues on the Commission. It is important that all policymakers understand the opportunity and the need to bring energy efficiency to all Missouri energy customers.”
The report, “Scaling up Energy Efficiency in Missouri and Illinois Multifamily Affordable Housing,” looked at utilization of energy efficiency programs and tools in this underserved housing sector. Findings include:
- Only 30% of the 225,000 households in affordable multifamily buildings are participating in energy efficiency programs within Ameren Illinois and Ameren Missouri service territories.
- Approximately 98% of those participating are benefiting from direct install measures, such as using LED light bulbs as opposed to more comprehensive retrofits like HVAC systems.
- Barriers to reaching greater savings include: insufficient funds, underestimation of cost-effective potential, regulatory barriers, lack of coordination and split incentives.
Potential solutions strongly supported by stakeholders to boost energy efficiency include:
- Develop comprehensive energy efficiency programs targeted to affordable multifamily building owners and residents that provide incentives for all cost-effective energy saving measures and that are easy for owners to access and navigate.
- Eliminate barriers to financing energy efficiency projects, and provide access to financing products to fill energy funding gaps.
- Increase building owners’ ability to measure energy consumption and assess the financial benefits of energy efficiency investments.
- Improve coordination and collaboration among energy efficiency and housing program administrators in order to leverage resources and align policy and program requirements.
Cady Seabaugh, Sustainability Communications Manager for McCormack Baron Salazar said, “Our company values efficiency because it helps our tenants manage their costs, and helps preserve housing for low and moderate-income families. We appreciate all the work that went into creating these recommendations, and hope to work as part of the team to turn them into reality in the St. Louis Metropolitan area.”
Geoff Marke, with the Missouri Office of Public Counsel said, “The Office of Public Counsel is working to make sure that all utility customers can manage their energy bills by participating in energy efficiency programs. But that means that the utilities need to make energy use data more widely available to building owners, and that both utilities and regulators need to more rigorously assess the potential for savings in affordable housing and think more comprehensively about the benefits to residents and building owners.”
“Utilities are often the highest operating expense in multifamily housing, which means reining in energy costs is a key strategy for reducing residents’ energy bills and enabling owners to maintain affordable rents,” said National Housing Trust’s Energy Efficiency Advisor, Annika Brink. “Through this dialogue, we’ve identified a number of practical solutions, such as closer coordination of program offerings, which, if implemented, will make multifamily housing healthy and affordable through energy efficiency.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the National Housing Trust (NHT) facilitated the initial dialogue and commissioned a separate study, “The Significant Potential for Energy Savings in Missouri’s Affordable Multifamily Housing,” to assess the magnitude of economic energy savings that could come from making affordable housing efficient and shared the results of that study with stakeholders today. The statewide energy potential totals show that over the next 20 years:
- For the Ameren Missouri service territory, efficiency could cut total electricity use by 15-19% and gas use by 17-24%, saving customers $76-$364 million dollars on their energy costs.
- For the Ameren Illinois service territory, efficiency could cut total electricity use by 22-26%, and gas use by 15-20%, saving customers $93-$403 million dollars.
“The bottom line is that unless our state policy makers and utilities act on these recommendations, electricity customers who most need relief from high energy costs will continue to pay far more than necessary these basic services,” said Rebecca Stanfield, Deputy Director of NRDC’s Midwest Program. “But if we follow these recommendations we have a shot at reducing energy waste, lowering bills, improving living conditions for working families, and reducing harmful pollution all at the same time.”
A copy of the white paper “Scaling up Energy Efficiency in Missouri and Illinois Multifamily Affordable Housing,” is available upon request.