On Earth Day, we affirm that the goals of beneficial electrification, energy efficiency and housing security will always be intertwined. Generally, they work together: high-performing building systems save energy and save owners money on building operations, reducing the upward pressure on rents.
But not all building owners care to share savings resulting from energy improvements with their tenants — even when they are taking advantage of government or utility incentives to install them.
We focus on electrification projects consistent with principles of equity and inclusion. While it is easiest to do this in master-metered buildings –where owners are already responsible to pay for electricity to the apartments – we cannot achieve the necessary scale to meet our climate goals without converting most of our housing stock to renewably sourced, electric heating, cooling and cooking equipment.
Thus it is essential that elected officials and government agencies take steps now to ensure that there are legal protections in place to keep tenants from paying for energy twice – first in their rents, which included their share of costs from existing fossil fuel burning systems, and again through increased charges to the electric bill for their dwelling units, if heating costs are added to those bills.
This year, even before the war in Ukraine began to impact gas prices, tenants were experiencing sharp increases in the costs of electricity due to supply cost issues. Meanwhile costs of energy to fuel vehicles, including those used for work, have also risen.
As we work to install the best equipment available now, we must always continue innovating and investigating ways to make it more affordable to produce and run, so that no one is left out of the health and environmental benefits that decarbonization of buildings can bring.
High performance buildings are a joint project between owners and residents. Effective energy management requires more than installing high performance equipment. It depends on operating and maintaining it to optimize efficiency, and on educating tenants about how their own behavior can help keep comfort levels up and costs down. It is important that residents share in the cost savings of energy efficiency. Their cooperation is part of what makes it work.
David Hepinstall | April 22nd, 2022