California- Multifamily Clean Energy and Water Bill Advances
In April, a new statewide Multifamily Clean Energy and Water Bill passed both Assembly committees. While the EEFA coalition is not engaged in lobbying, our work over the past 3 years was instrumental in cultivating the expertise and building the network necessary for this bill to become a reality. It would create a 2030 efficiency and greenhouse gas target in line with California’s ambitious climate and clean energy goals, an expert advisory committee to inform statewide strategies for low-income multifamily housing through 2030, and it would help to make existing programs more accessible through a range of coordination and streamlining activities, including creation of a statewide single program application for owners.
Maryland- MEEA Helps Secure Maryland’s Commitment to Efficiency
Late last year the Maryland Energy Efficiency Advocates coalition (MEEA) realized there was a risk that the Public Service Commission might backslide in its commitment to energy efficiency, which could potentially prohibit the renewal of the state’s low-income multifamily programs for the 2018-2020 cycle. To prevent that from happening a subset of coalition members with the credentials and capacity to lobby using resources outside of EEFA worked with the legislature directly on a bill codifying the historic 2015 order. Simultaneously, the coalition worked with partners to develop communication and education tools that emphasized the multiple benefits current efficiency programs provide to the state. This helped to combat the anti-efficiency messaging that might justify a veto. The bill hit the governor’s desk, avoided his veto, and became law on April 7th. In addition, the PSC ordered a $4 million increase in funding for multifamily building energy efficiency from the Exelon/Pepco merger customer benefits fund, MEEA formed a new alliance with a statewide group that promotes energy assistance (the Energy Advocates), and the coalition is pressing forward for improvements to the Low-Income Energy Efficiency and Multifamily Energy Efficiency and Housing Affordability Programs for 2018-2020.
Michigan- Spending Cap on Efficiency Programs Lifted
In April, the Michigan utility spending cap on energy efficiency investments was removed. Michigan EEFA (MEEFA) partners NRDC, MEC, and other network partners played an active role for two years advocating for the value of efficiency programs through working groups, potential studies and direct conversations with utilities.
Minnesota- Preserving PACE for Multifamily
State officials in Minnesota initiated an effort to suspend multifamily PACE in the state until certain consumer protections were established. While PACE has not yet been widely utilized by multifamily properties in the state, use of this financing resource is increasing and it provides an alternative financing option for owners that do not want to take on traditional debt. The Minnesota Multifamily Affordable Housing Energy Network (MMAHEN) facilitated a dialogue on the value of PACE for multifamily owners and the potential vulnerability of the sector to predatory lending practices. From this dialogue between advocates and subject matter experts, it was determined that multifamily building owners have a sophisticated understanding of financing and lending, and likely would not fall victim to the same predatory lending behaviors that single-family homeowners might face. These insights from MMAHEN members convinced supporters of PACE suspension to exempt multifamily housing and preserve PACE as a resource for affordable multifamily properties.
New York – State and City Housing Agencies Adopt Integrated Property Needs Assessment
Property needs assessments often overlook potential savings from energy and water efficiency improvements and fail to identify opportunities to make buildings healthier and more comfortable for residents. To tackle this issue EEFA led a collaborative effort between city and state housing agencies, the state energy authority, utilities, and financing organizations to develop the nation’s first Integrated Property Needs Assessment (IPNA) tool. This unique product bundles several disparate assessments together. By combining a traditional property needs assessment with an improved energy and water efficiency audit, an innovative health assessment developed by LISC and Enterprise Community Partners, and a solar potential evaluation tool developed by Solar One, the IPNA provides owners with one product that will meet the needs of multiple agencies and financing institutions. This tool is being adopted as a requirement for all three of New York’s housing agencies (HPD, HDC, & HCR) and will help to improve the homes of more than 8,000 low-income New York families each year. EEFA plans to work with housing agencies in the rest of our states to encourage and facilitate the adoption of similar tools.
Pennsylvania- Tackling Energy Affordability and Owner Engagement
The PA Public Utility Commission is embarking on a year-long, comprehensive review of the state’s approach to improving energy affordability for low-income residents. The PA-EEFA coalition intends to be deeply involved in this process to ensure that the energy affordability needs of low-income renters are addressed. They have already submitted comments on the range of topics that they think should be addressed in the review. In addition, the coalition continues to actively encourage multifamily owners to participate in the newly launched electric utility energy efficiency programs. Led by PA-EEFA member the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, the coalition has directly engaged more than 500 affordable housing developers, owners, property managers, and other housing stakeholders to educate them about existing programs and connect them with the utilities.
Virginia- Educating the Public on Utility Rates v. Bills
Dominion Virginia Power’s rates are a hot election-year issue in the Commonwealth, due largely to the rate freeze law that allows the utility to over-recover many millions of dollars in revenue annually over the costs of delivering power to customers. However, the media and policymakers often conflate rates and bills, which obscures the fact that – despite the successful multifamily energy efficiency pilot program delivered thanks to advocacy by our Virginia Multifamily Energy Efficiency Coalition (VMFEEC) – Dominion has paltry energy efficiency program offerings for residents, including low-income Virginians. To educate reporters and public officials the Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC), a VMFEEC members, released a report on Dominion Virginia Power’s increasing electricity bills and lack of energy efficiency savings. The report is part of a campaign plan by VPLC’s new Affordable Clean Energy Project, which will bring a much-needed consumer voice to VMFEEC.