There’s an expression: “If You’re Not at the Table, You’re on the Menu.” So, what does that have to do with advocating for energy efficiency in affordable housing? Quite a bit, actually.
Throughout the last five years, the National Housing Trust (NHT) has made it a priority to engage in forums where big decisions are made about who gets to benefit from investments in energy efficiency. Publicly regulated utilities spend approximately $8 billion a year on making buildings more energy efficient. All utility customers pay into these programs, but the benefits are not always equitably shared. On average, utilities spend just 9 percent of their energy efficiency budgets to benefit limited-income households. Meanwhile, roughly 15 percent of Americans live below the poverty line, and nearly a third of Americans are considered low-income.
This is a dynamic that NHT is trying to change through an initiative called Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA). EEFA is a partnership of NHT, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Energy Foundation, Elevate Energy as well as nearly 50 state partners. We are working together to make multifamily housing affordable and healthy through energy efficiency by claiming our right to a “seat at the table.”
The “tables” I’m talking about are utility regulatory proceedings where decisions are made about efficiency budgets, utility mergers, and customer utility rates. Too often these proceedings are dominated by big corporate interests. It’s critical that voices of low-income communities are also heard. When they are, change can happen.
Since its inception, EEFA has secured $315 million in new energy efficiency funding for affordable multifamily housing as a result of “being at the table.” This success can be attributed to our partners who are bringing low-income communities into these important debates.
For more information about Energy Efficiency for All, contact NHT Housing and Energy Efficiency Director Todd Nedwick.