Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment

Low-Income Multifamily Energy Savings Retrofits: Solutions to Increase Access to Incentives and Unlock Benefits

Ethan Elkind, Ted Lamm

CEN_EMM_PUB-Low-Income Multifamily Energy Savings Retrofits
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Improving the energy performance of existing buildings will be key to achieving California's efficiency and greenhouse gas emission goals. But owners of low-income, multifamily buildings face some of the greatest obstacles, including difficult access to capital, complex financing arrangements, and competing renovation needs. Residents in these buildings also experience a "split incentive" problem that limits owners' financial interest in upgrades that primarily reduce residents' utility bills.

While California's energy regulators and electric utilities fund and operate a number of incentive and rebate programs, structural barriers have hampered progress, including strict income qualification criteria, energy data opacity, and the complexity of combining multiple incentives into one project.

To address these challenges, UC Berkeley and UCLA Schools of Law are issuing a new policy brief based on two stakeholder convenings that identified policy solutions to address key barriers, increase access to energy efficiency incentives, and unlock environmental, financial, and quality-of-life benefits for owners and residents alike. A full-length report detailing the comprehensive findings will be released later this year. Among the solutions identified are:

  • The Legislature or Public Utilities Commission could create a single, statewide "one-stop shop" efficiency program administrator for users to obtain information about available programs, determine applicability, submit all filings, manage participation, and receive technical assistance.
  • The Legislature could create a long-term fund to support the one-stop shop Administrator and subsidize advanced efficiency measures, allowing owner/developers to plan efficiency projects in line with their long-term obligations.
  • State energy regulators could create a comprehensive database to help prioritize retrofit projects and support Energy Commission energy data benchmarking and analysis efforts under AB 802.

The full report, which will include these and many more policy recommendations, will be released later in 2019.