Energy efficiency programs targeted at the multifamily housing sector can create sizable savings for utilities, according to a report released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and CNT Energy.
The report, Engaging as Partners: Introducing Utilities to the Energy Efficiency Needs of Multifamily Buildings and Their Owners, said building owners and tenants of the more than 18 million occupied apartments and condominiums in buildings with five units or more spent nearly $22 billion on energy in 2009. That’s an average of $1,141 per household, the report said. If the best current multifamily energy efficiency programs were expanded nationwide, these building owners and tenants could save up to $3.4 billion per year.
The report recommended utilities design programs that address diverse needs of different segments of the multifamily housing markets, make rebates easy to access and understand, and coordinate programs offered by natural gas and electric power providers. Utilities need to identify local conditions that might affect a program’s design, including the architectural characteristics of the building stock and multifamily building finance, the report said.
Targeting multifamily building owners, many of whom have formed tight networks in cities nationwide and own multiple buildings, might be a better and more effective way to launch energy efficiency programs than pursuing single-family homeowners, the report said. Utilities can enlist building owners in efficiency programs through existing networks and sign up multiple buildings through one decision-maker.
There are challenges to delivering an effective program, including the split incentive that exists when building owners invest in energy efficiency improvements, while tenant benefit from lower energy bills, the report said. Savings attribution can become complicated when there are multiple fuel sources, the report said.
Significant opportunities to create energy efficiency programs for multifamily housing exists in the US. A separate report released in March by ACEEE found 40 percent of the largest multifamily housing markets lack utility energy efficiency programs.