Home energy ratings are experiencing a growing role in energy code compliance. HERS Raters, in particular, often provide third-party verification services for minimum and above-code programs, including traditional compliance pathways contained in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), and more recently the Energy Rating Index (ERI) pathway. In recognition of this trend, the U.S. Department of Energy commissioned a study exploring the consistency and replicability of the HERS system, and in anticipation of HERS Raters assuming a greater role in energy code compliance.
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The Energy/Health Connection
One in every 13 Americans has asthma, and we spend over $50 billion each year treating it. But did you know asthma attacks (and several other health issues) can be alleviated with better energy efficiency?
Energy efficiency policies and programs reduce pollution by offsetting the need for additional generation from power plants. Increasing energy efficiency and targeting programs to those most vulnerable for health issues (e.g. the elderly, people with existing chronic conditions, residents living in areas of higher pollution) improves public health while avoiding additional healthcare costs.
Energy efficiency improvements can be expensive and burdensome for residential homeowners, renters and building owners. Luckily, there are an increasing number of financial options to help cover the up-front costs of efficiency upgrades. Below, we lay out several financing options to make our homes and workplaces more energy efficient.
1. On-Bill Financing
On-bill financing is an umbrella term for a financing program where a charge is added to a customer’s energy bill to repay a loan from a utility for energy efficiency upgrades. The utility acts as the lender and incurs the upfront costs of the improvements.
How It Works
Cost-effectiveness testing is an important part of energy efficiency planning, reporting and evaluation. Utilities use cost-effectiveness tests to demonstrate that their investments in energy efficiency are in the best interests of the utility, their customers and society in general. The traditional tests come from a California Public Utility Commission manual that was developed in the early 1980s and last updated in 2001.
The case for residential energy efficiency often turns on two benefits: saving on energy bills or saving the world. But a recent study by the North Carolina Building Performance Association (NCBPA) found that energy efficiency in homes has another untapped selling point: a higher market value than less efficient homes.
The average Midwesterner pays 65% more for electricity than they did at the turn of the millennium. Saving energy is a key way to help lower customer bills even with rising rates. Utility Consumer Advocates (UCAs) represent residential customers before regulators and legislatures, and they use their expertise to help ensure ratepayer dollars are spent prudently and cost-effectively.
In September, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy completed a case study profiling MEEA’s HVAC Savings Adjustment and Verified Efficiency (HVAC SAVE) program, which tells the story of how MEEA partnered with utilities in Iowa to launch a HVAC quality installation and quality maintenance program that has resulted in over 100,000 jobs and substantial energy savings.
As a membership organization that includes utilities, businesses, advocates and government agencies, MEEA knows the power of collaboration. Time and again, we’ve seen first-hand that when diverse groups sit down at the table together, we’re able to harness our collective expertise and experience to find solutions that work for everyone.
And we’re not the only ones who think collaboration is a powerful tool. Several states in the Midwest currently convene collaborative groups to promote energy efficiency.