Cutting Energy In Multifamily Dwellings

Energy efficiency upgrades in multifamily buildings could save building managers and residents up to $3.4 billion nationwide, according to a January report released by CNT Energy and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

“Engaging as Partners in Energy Efficiency: Multifamily Housing and Utilities” demonstrates that energy use in multifamily buildings can be reduced substantially, and cost-effective upgrades can result in utility cost savings of 15% to 30% in buildings with five or more residential units.

The key to unlocking the savings, the report finds, is for energy utilities and apartment building owners/managers to work together more closely to develop effective energy efficiency policies.

“We have billions essentially sitting untapped in our apartment buildings. We can harness that by simply setting better policies for efficiency for apartment buildings,” said Anne McKibbin, CNT Energy policy director and co-author of the report. “Partnering with utilities is a crucial part of the process. Building owners and other housing industry players need to work with their utilities, engaging them directly and in local and state regulatory proceedings,” she said.

Energy efficiency upgrades improve the bottom line for multifamily building managers, help maintain affordable housing, decrease financial risk for lending institutions, and improve occupant comfort. However, facility managers often have difficulty finding technical assistance, financing, or qualified contractors to upgrade their buildings. “Maximizing energy efficiency is a win-win for apartment residents, building owners, energy utilities and our energy infrastructure,” said Doug Bibby, President of the National Multi Housing Council. “This report offers excellent ideas that we hope spur further cooperation between multifamily owners and utilities to create a more efficient partnership.”

One Size Does Not Fit All
Better coordination between apartment building management and energy utilities could address the current obstacles to improvements, according to the report’s analysis. The study finds that there is a vast, largely untapped opportunity to engage utilities in providing effective energy efficiency programs that target the multifamily sector. The study examines utilities’ involvement in energy efficiency efforts across the country and identifies strategies that the multifamily building community can use to work together for improved efficiency. “We are thrilled to explore partnerships with apartment owners as a way of better serving our customers and reaching our energy efficiency goals. This paper outlines some important next steps for collaboration,” said Duane Larson, Director, Energy Efficiency Strategy, Pacific Gas & Electric Company.

The report identifies regions where the multifamily sector could see particularly dramatic benefits from improvements in energy efficiency policy. These include Florida, Illinois, Texas, and the District of Columbia—regions that have a substantial number of multifamily buildings and energy policies that leave significant room for improvement.

“Utilities and local regulations vary dramatically from state to state and region to region, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” says Eric Mackres, ACEEE senior policy analyst. “The common thread is that partnering with the utility is crucial. This report outlines a variety of strategies that can help the multifamily housing sector to engage electric and natural gas utilities in order to expand the resources available for energy efficiency retrofits.”

This report was made possible by support from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Living Cities, and it is available on the ACEEE website.

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