To most outsiders, the world of energy efficiency probably appears static with slow, incremental changes. A furnace rebate here, light bulb swap-out there, maybe an updated building energy code every few years. But it should come as no surprise to industry insiders that this isn’t the case at all. An explosion of new technology across every part of our economy is rapidly changing our energy savings goals and the ways we identify and capture those savings.
Building efficiency experts from around the Midwest convened in Ann Arbor, MI on November 15-16 for the 8th Annual Midwest Building Energy Codes Conference. This was the first time this conference was hosted in Michigan, which helped MEEA and attendees understand the unique challenges to the Michigan building community and provided critical local perspectives to better inform future building energy code policy. In past years, MEEA had the opportunity to host this conference and learn from local groups in Ohio, Minnesota, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois.
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.
October 16-20 is “Careers in Energy Week” for the state of Illinois. Governor Rauner has recognized that a strong and diverse energy workforce is critical to support the large demand for safe, reliable and affordable energy to support Illinois families, communities and businesses. Energy efficiency is a key component to ensure affordability and reliability for years to come.
One August afternoon, a few MEEAites embarked on a recon mission to gather data on smart devices in two major retailers of home appliances. Sadly, the budget didn’t approve our request for black turtlenecks and spy gear, so we had to make do with business casual.
Our goal was to get a general idea of what type of technology comes with today’s appliances that are commonly available to the public. As MEEA sets out to not only understand, but also influence on the world of intelligent efficiency, we have recently found ourselves arriving at the same question that starts at the consumer: What do customers experience today when buying new home appliances?
If you are like me (or 14.8% of Midwesterners), you live in multifamily housing. And if you’ve ever been a multifamily tenant, then you know it can be harder to get improvements and renovations done than if you live in a single-family home. Dealing with landlords, management companies and condo associations can slow down decision-making, and it’s often unclear what you, as a resident, can or can't do to modify your home.
Property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing is off and running in the Midwest. PACE enables homeowners and commercial building owners to finance energy efficiency improvements through a special assessment on their property that is paid back through their tax bill. To date, there are 15 active PACE programs in the MEEA footprint. PACE-enabling legislation exists in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio and Nebraska, and legislation in Illinois has passed both state legislative houses and is awaiting the governor’s signature.
There are many paths to building a highly energy efficient new home, including Passivehaus, Living Building Challenge and the soon-to-be-released ASHRAE 90.2 standard. Policies designed to save energy are also driving up demand for efficient housing. California, for example, will soon require that all new homes be zero net energy.
Given increasing interest for such innovative homes, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which people across the country are able to just pick their favorite energy efficient home from a subdivision full of zero net energy (ZNE) homes.
Multifamily housing is a substantial portion of the housing stock in Midwestern states, making up 11-22% of the housing market, depending on the state. Energy efficiency for multifamily housing seems like a sure bet. Estimates show possible energy savings in multifamily affordable housing as high as 22-31%.