WASHINGTON — For utilities looking to meet energy efficiency goals, the multifamily housing sector represents a sizeable opportunity to achieve energy savings through targeted energy efficiency programs, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and CNT Energy. In their report, Engaging as Partners: Introducing Utilities to the Energy Efficiency Needs of Multifamily Buildings and Their Owners, ACEEE and CNT Energy examine the factors that contribute to effective energy efficiency program design for multifamily buildings and recommend strategies that can help utilities design and implement energy efficiency programs to attract multifamily building owners and achieve significant energy savings.

“There is enormous opportunity to achieve energy savings in the multifamily sector, and utilities have an important role to play in delivering effective energy efficiency programs,” said Anne McKibbin, policy director for CNT Energy. “Utilities need to work with the multifamily sector to design programs that address the barriers that prevent multifamily building owners from investing in energy efficiency upgrades.”

The United States has more than 18 million occupied apartments and condominiums in buildings with five units or more, and 16 million of these units are occupied by renters. Collectively, these building owners and tenants spent nearly $22 billion on energy in 2009, an average of $1,141 per household. If the best current multifamily energy efficiency programs were expanded nationwide, they could save up to $3.4 billion per year, noted ACEEE and CNT Energy. Improvements to current programs could result in greater savings.

Key recommendations for utilities include designing programs that address the diverse needs of different segments of the multifamily housing market, making rebates easy to understand and access, and coordinating programs offered by natural gas and electric utilities. In addition, the report stresses the importance of developing programs that overcome the split incentive that occurs in rental housing where building owners are responsible for the costs of efficiency upgrades while tenants pay their own utility bills and reap the benefits of those upgrades.

The report highlights key industry players who make natural partners, including building owners, financial institutions, and affordable housing intermediaries. It also lays out a practical approach to designing programs that will achieve savings and benefits for all stakeholders, building owners in particular.

“Energy efficiency can make a huge difference in the bottom line for multifamily building owners,” said Kate Johnson, ACEEE senior policy analyst. “In addition to lower utility bills, owners have happier tenants because units are more comfortable. That means lower tenant turnover and higher occupancy rates, which also makes a big impact on cash flow for building owners.”

To read the report, go tohttp://aceee.org/research-report/e137.

Publication date: 4/8/2013