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Tackling Energy Efficiency Barriers for Renters

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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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Renters are receptive to energy efficiency upgrades but according to a new report from the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC) they are reluctant to request them.  According to the report, Americans who rent their homes face significant barriers to participating in energy efficiency programs compared to homeowners.  While 78 percent are interested in participating, 46 percent fear it would result in rent increases an another 36 percent believe their landlords would never approve the upgrades. 

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To make savings available to more residents and provide Energy Efficiency For All, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a $75 million program to provide retrofits to low-income tenants. “Tackling the climate crisis is about more than just government action — it’s about giving our most vulnerable residents the tools they need to join this fight, reverse generations of environmental inequities, and cut their own energy costs,” said Garcetti.  The Comprehensive Affordable Multifamily Retrofits (CAMR) program will provide incentives for building electrification and on-site solar installation to multifamily housing serving low-income residents.  “We are working across LADWP to expand the availability of valuable, money-saving programs for all of our customers, and to remove barriers that many of our customers face when trying to do their part to save energy and water,” Board of Water & Power Commissioners President Cynthia McClain-Hill said in a statement. “This program removes a significant barrier faced by renters who have struggled to save energy and money by working with property owners of low-income and multifamily units. L.A.’s renters rightly deserve the same investment in programs to help them conserve electricity, while also saving on their utility bills.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, renters make up one-third of American households so the need to get them involved is a no-brainer.  However, the upfront costs for retrofits and energy efficiency upgrades can be steep for property owners, creating another barrier for renters.  On a state level, property assessed clean energy programs or PACE programs allow property owners to finance the up-front cost and then pay the costs back over time through a voluntary assessment.  Utilities are also taking significant steps to increase energy efficiency and conservation.  Through a partnership with Community Action Programs, New Hampshire utility, Eversource is improving energy efficiency equity.  The program provides funding to replace refrigerators and lighting with ENERGY STAR®-rated systems.  Preparing for the bitterly cold winter weather common to the area, the partnership will also provide weatherization packages and heating system replacement support.

Until programs like these become a viable option everywhere, how can renters participate in energy efficiency efforts?  What other incentives, programs and partnerships are paving the way to Energy Efficiency for All?

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