In interviews with Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) implementers and agencies, a key programmatic challenge cited was walkaway rates. Walkaways happen when a home is unable to be weatherized due to a structural or health and safety issue, like a hole in the roof, flooding, hoarding and more. WAPs in the Midwest receive their funding largely from two sources, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the State Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Some states receive additional funding from local utilities, but that is not consistent throughout the region.
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
Nationwide, over 16 million households struggle to meet their heating, cooling and other energy needs, but energy efficiency is increasingly recognized as a potential solution to this problem. In 2018, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri began holding income qualified energy efficiency stakeholder collaboratives to strengthen program design and delivery for these communities. Throughout the Midwest, decision makers across the political spectrum recognize the value of low-income energy efficiency in helping families afford their basic energy needs.
This year's Midwest Energy Solutions Conference (MES) incorporated interactive workshops into its agenda for the first time ever, and one of the three workshops focused on Net Zero Energy (NZE) in the Midwest. MEEA staff wanted attendees to consider what Net Zero Energy means for energy efficiency (EE) in the Midwest specifically. (For the purposes of the workshop, “NZE” was referring to any building, development or community that does not use more energy than it produces. See DOE’s NZE definitions).
The Midwest has a strong track record of creativity and innovation: sliced bread, improv comedy, the Model T and, best of all, Post-It notes! And now we see that same spirit of innovation being pursued within the utility sector.
In my July 18 blog post, I alluded to the Missouri Public Service Commission’s (PSC) inquiry into emerging issues in utility regulation. Missouri is one of four Midwest states that have, or are undertaking, “utility 2.0” or “utility of the future” exploratory initiatives.
In April, the PSC issued an order (EW-2017-0245) opening a working case to explore five emerging issues:
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.
MEEA successfully gave a workshop style presentation on energy data acquisition at the Affordable Energy Association’s 2015 Multifamily Buildings Conference in Brooklyn, NY on October 28-30, 2015. Together with Ellen M. Sargent, Chicago Housing Authority; and Ryan Snow, USGBC National; Steve Kismohr from MEEA brought concepts and related activities on how to engage Building Asset Managers to acquire base building information and manage energy use.