$3.4B in Multifamily Property Energy Savings for the Taking

According to a report released by CNT Energy and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, multifamily building owners could keep approximately $3.4 billion in their pockets annually through energy efficiency upgrades.

Chicago—It’s not chump change: According to Engaging as Partners in Energy Efficiency: Multifamily Housing and Utilities, a report released by CNT Energy and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, multifamily building owners and occupants in the United States could keep approximately $3.4 billion in their pockets annually through energy efficiency upgrades.

Multifamily property developers have certainly warmed up to the idea of sustainable development, well aware that the upfront investment in energy-efficient building methods and products—the prices of which continue to drop—is worth the long-term decrease in operational costs for the owners and utility billing totals for residents. However, as per the study, there is more work to be done, more savings to be had. Certain upgrades at properties with five units or more can yield cost reductions of as much as 15 percent for electricity and 30 percent for gas, or in monetary terms, a respective total of approximately $2 billion and $1.4 billion.

But property owners cannot achieve the goal alone. Teamwork, CNT and ACEEE conclude, is the answer to achieving exorbitant savings. “Partnering with utilities is a crucial part of the process,” Anne McKibbin, CNT Energy policy director and coauthor of the report, notes in a prepared statement. Building owners and other housing industry players need to work with their utilities, engaging them directly and in local and state regulatory proceedings.”

The opportunity to shell out less on utilities varies from state to state. However, the report finds that, taking into consideration the high percentage of multifamily units coupled with deficient energy policies, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Washington, D.C., would benefit the most from new partnership programs. In Florida, for instance, multifamily units account for 23.8 percent of the total housing units, yet the state scores only four out of 20 on ACEEE’s most recent State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which rates states’ utility and public benefits programs and policies. D.C., which has a housing stock that is 49.7 percent multifamily, scores a 5 for programs and policies.

CNT and ACEEE offer examples of effective programs and partnerships, including Chicago’s Energy Savers program. The program serves a “one-stop shop” for improving energy efficiency by helping the owner identify the most cost-effective changes that can be made to a building and assisting in the obtainment of low-cost financing to bring the upgrades to fruition. The organizations also cite the California Statewide Multifamily Energy Efficiency Rebate Program as a successful model. Four of the state’s leading investor-owned utilities spearhead the program, which provides both property owners and tenants with equipment rebates.

“In short,” the report concludes, “the best multifamily energy efficiency programs make it easy for building owners to squeeze the most efficiency from their buildings.”