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%.
Congratulations to the University of Minnesota’s “Team OptiMN” who won the Department of Energy’s Race to Zero Student Design Competition last month in Golden, Colorado!
The team, led by students Laurel Johnston, Peter Schneider, Cavan Wagg and Collin Coltman, bested 32 other teams from across the country in a competition to create a cost-effective home that uses little to no energy by optimizing energy efficiency and utilizing renewable resources. The team was also overseen by Professor Pat Huelman, who worked alongside MEEA on the development of Minnesota’s new building energy code.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized the Illinois Energy & Recycling Office at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) with a 2015 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year Award for its work on the Illinois Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. DCEO’s accomplishments will be recognized in Washington, D.C. on April 20, 2014.