New ACEEE Report Provides Roadmap for Utilities to Reach Underserved Multifamily Customers

December 2, 2013

Report Will Be Centerpiece of White House Sponsored Roundtable with Building Owners and Utilities

Washington, D.C.—The benefits of energy efficiency have been largely out of reach for many of the more than 20 million U.S. families living in apartment or condo buildings that are often underserved by energy efficiency programs. A new report, Apartment Hunters: Programs Searching for Energy Savings in Multifamily Buildings, released today by ACEEE, offers advice to utilities on how to deliver energy efficiency to their multifamily customers.

“The ACEEE report is an important building block in a larger strategy to reduce energy waste in this underserved market,” said Michael Bodaken, executive director of the National Housing Trust. “The opportunity to save energy in multifamily housing is tremendous. Effective energy efficiency programs are win-win, both helping residents and owners save money while cutting down on pollution.”

The paper will also be the centerpiece of a White House sponsored discussion that will launch an expansion of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Initiative. The initiative will include multifamily buildings for the first time, as called for in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The event, organized by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and will bring together utilities that have partnered with ACEEE and leading owners of multifamily housing that are pledging to reduce energy consumption across their building portfolios by 20% within 10 years.

"Through ongoing collaboration with ACEEE, and the leadership of our partners at DOE and private utilities, we are confident that we will eliminate the barriers to saving energy in multifamily buildings," said HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones. "We look forward to working with them to help residents and multifamily building owners save energy and money, and reduce carbon pollution."

Energy efficiency programs often underserve multifamily buildings because they can be more challenging to reach than large commercial buildings and single-family homes. An earlier ACEEE report showed that in many metropolitan areas, multifamily housing’s share of energy efficiency program dollars is much smaller than their share of the housing market. The new report describes energy saving strategies that utilities can follow to start new multifamily programs or strengthen existing ones.

“We found that although barriers exist, they are not made of stone,” said report author Kate Johnson. “By following the best practices described in this report, utilities can break through to owners and tenants of multifamily buildings. Many of them are unknowingly wasting large of amounts of money.”

ACEEE looked at several successful programs already offered by energy 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.

Some leading programs, including those of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Puget Sound Energy, are already achieving high energy and cost savings.

“In an effort to reduce energy consumption across all sectors of the economy, NYSERDA’s Multifamily Performance Program (MPP) complements Governor Cuomo’s Build Smart NY program, which is driving energy savings at state buildings, as well as NYSERDA’s commercial and residential energy efficiency programs,” said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA. “MPP’s incentives and the technical support provided by the program’s trade partners have resulted in an average of 23% savings per participating building.”

Comparable savings are possible elsewhere in the country if utilities adopt the best practices identified in the ACEEE report.

Programs are delivering savings to both building owners and residents. “By combining no-cost apartment improvements with rebates for lighting, heating, and cooling upgrades, we’ve been able to reach nearly half of our multifamily customers,” says John Forde, Market Manager at Puget Sound Energy. “This represents a huge jump in the number of customers enjoying the benefits of energy efficiency.”

Additional program strategies featured in the report include on-bill finance, low-income housing programs, and streamlining rebates across residential and commercial programs. The case studies include:

  • Austin Energy – Power Saver Multifamily Program
  • CNT Energy & Community Investment Corporation – Energy Savers
  • Energy Trust of Oregon – Existing Multifamily Program
  • LEAN Massachusetts - Low-Income Multi Family Energy Retrofits
  • New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) – Multifamily Performance Program
  • Public Service Electric & Gas – Residential Multi-Family Program
  • Puget Sound Energy – Existing Multifamily Retrofit Program
  • Sacramento Municipal Utility District – Multifamily Home Performance Program
  • Efficiency Vermont - Multifamily Programs
  • DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DC SEU) - Low-Income Multifamily Comprehensive Program
  • ComEd, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas - Multifamily Comprehensive Energy Efficiency Program (MCEEP)
  • CenterPoint Energy - Low-Income Multifamily Rebates

To read the report visit: /research-report/e13n

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors.