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Biden to Expand Energy Efficiency Options

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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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In the United States, around 52 percent of Black or African American households and 45 percent of Latin American households struggle to pay for electricity, cooking gas and heating oil.  Renters have no or low access to cost savings through energy efficiency programs.  Why so crucial?  A study of the household energy burden in the 48 largest metropolitan areas, found that African American and Latin American households paid more for utilities per square foot than the median household, indicating that they reside in less efficient housing. Proposed solutions include financing for energy efficiency upgrades tied to utility meters, and targeted incentives for owners of low-income rental housing.  Nationwide, 37 percent of households rent their homes. Providing better options for renters to conserve energy could lower the carbon footprint and accelerate climate goals.  

The Biden administration is proposing updates to energy-efficiency standards for manufactured/mobile homes.   The plan forecasts it will save mobile-home owners thousands of dollars and prevent millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions.  These updates would include upgrades to insulation and windows, as well as heating and cooling systems. Currently, 22 million Americans live in mobile or manufactured houses and the federal building codes for them haven't changed in 30 years.  While everyone agrees changes are necessary, they don't agree with the Energy Department’s method.  “We believe in the importance of energy efficiency,” said Lesli Gooch, CEO of the Manufactured Housing Institute, a trade organization. “We just don’t think that this proposal is going to have the desired impact. And in fact, it’s going to have a negative impact on the supply of affordable, manufactured housing.” Mark Weiss, president of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, another industry trade association added, “Our concern is that these new requirements are going to make them substantially more costly.”  The debate continues.  In the meantime, several states and utilities are employing workarounds like energy audits,  weatherization, zero-energy modular homes, grant programs and improved mortgage products to boost efficiency.  

“It’s all about insulation,” said Tony Flanders, a housing consultant at Factory Direct Homes.  Vermont, where the average winter temperature is 23 degrees, aims to weatherize 90,000 homes this decade, in addition to the roughly 30,000 that have been weatherized in recent decades.  Vermont aims to weatherize 90,000 homes this decade, in addition to the roughly 30,000 that have been weatherized in recent decades.   “While I’m excited to see that weatherization is being valued by our legislature as a clear solution to the [climate] problem, are we going to be able to complete that task by 2030?” asked Dwight DeCoster, weatherization program director at the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity.  Reaching their climate goals will largely depend on weatherizing homes and electrifying both the transportation and the building sector.  

Energy efficiency programs allow customers to save money and power.  What is your utility doing to broaden energy efficiency options that lower electricity bills, conserve energy, and accelerate climate goals?

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