Traditionally, utilities have ignored multi-family housing efficiency—because it’s harder to reach the owners and tenants.
But don’t give up on these buildings; utilities can reach them by following in the footsteps of those who are already succeeding, says a new report from ACEEE that identifies best practices.
ACEEE looked at several successful programs already offered by utilities and state program administrators. These programs are typically funded by utility customers through their monthly bills, and they provide services and financial incentives to help businesses and households reduce their energy use, according to an ACEEE press release.
Successful programs include those from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Puget Sound Energy, according to the report, “Apartment Hunters: Programs Searching for Energy Savings in Multifamily Buildings.”
First of all, create a program specifically for multi-families, says Dan Teague, director of business development, Wegowise, which provides software that helps utilities collect data. “When you have programs serving that space, you are also serving low-income families most in need of efficiency.”
Utilities need to get holistic when serving multi-family units, he said. That means serving both the tenants and the owners. For tenants, that means encouraging behavioral changes. For owners, it means focusing on operational and mechanical changes. “You want people investing in the improvement of the entire building – not just their portion of the utility spend,” he said.
For example, for the Mass Save program, the gas and electric utilities worked together to provide one-stop shopping. “Owners can go to a program, sign up, the auditor comes and looks at the boiler and reviews the tenant spaces.” The auditor then offers rebates to improve the mechanical systems.
Another key to boosting participation is benchmarking laws. Many cities have enacted laws requiring the collection of basic information about buildings and their energy use. “You normalize the information for things like weather changes so you know how much better or worse your building is doing compared to average or other buildings,” he said. The buildings that score low then apply for energy efficiency money.
Benchmarking helps utilities because it helps them identify where their energy efficiency money is best spent, added Teague.
Utilities should also measure the success of their programs by collecting data and measuring the programs’ successes.
Utilities, it’s not impossible to reap multi-family energy savings and help low-income families. It just takes some creativity and knowledge about what has succeeded. Learn more by reading the ACEEE report here: ACEEE Multi-Family Housing Report