Emerald Cities Collaborative Policy Resources

General Resources:

Local policies

Full retrofit of MUSH space including public housing and HUD buildings

Very few cities have a goal of fully retrofitting their public and institutional infrastructure, and fewer still have taken steps to actually do so.

Goal: Capture savings, create jobs, reduce pollution, save states/municipalities money through comprehensive inventory, assessment, and retrofit of building stock. Work with cities to assure political will, build coalitions, find financing, and ensure that work is high-road.

More info:

RECOs (Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance) and CECOs (Commercial)

Residential or Commercial Energy Conservation ordinances are rules that state that upon point of sale, a property will be brought up to a specified standard of efficiency. The costs of doing so are rolled into the closing costs. In places with existing RECOs, standards can be tightened. Some programs apply to rental properties as well. They can also be triggered when a renovation of a certain magnitude is begun. Many existing programs have relatively low standards for the upgrades.

Goal: Support the widespread implementation of RECOs and CECOs that promote deep retrofits, and work on partnering them with various financing options.

Example: Berkeley (RECO, CECO), Ann Arbor, San Francisco

Expand uptake of Commercial PACE programs

Commercial PACE programs are not facing the same barriers as residential PACE programs, but uptake has been slow.

ECC Goal: Establish Commercial PACE as viable financing option, especially as private lenders become increasingly interested and government grants diminish. Increase local uptake of this financing mechanism where appropriate. Lawrence Berkeley Lab brief on Commercial PACE.

Examples: San Francisco, Sonoma County.

More info: Lawrence Berkeley Lab brief on Commercial PACE.

On (utility) bill cost recovery

On-utility bill cost recovery is a promising alternative to PACE, allowing repayments to run with the meter and in many instances allowing renters to participate in energy efficiency retrofit programs. Using utility bill payment history as a program participation criteria as opposed to checking FICO scores can allow lower-income households to participate in energy efficiency programs.

Goal: Support the creation of on-bill cost recovery programs at investor owned utilities, Co-ops or municipal utilities, either through voluntary participation or via state mandate. Work to establish bill-repayment history as viable underwriting criteria. Share best-practices and encourage uptake.

Examples: Midwest Energy, NYSERDA Green Jobs Green NY.

Disclosure ordinances/labeling

The current real estate market fails to account for the value of energy efficiency. Creating a mandatory labeling system for buildings, similar to the MPG rating for cars, is a partial remedy to this situation, allowing easy comparison of buildings’ energy costs. Upon transfer of occupancy, a building’s efficiency is assessed and the results are made publicly accessible.

ECC Goal: Push for adoption of disclosure/labeling ordinances for all sectors to create market awareness and demand for efficient buildings, in both residential and commercial applications.

Examples: Seattle, for commercial spaces (more info here, and full guide here). Austin, for residential.

More info: See IMT’s resources for commercial labeling/disclosure, including new  report “Building Energy Transparency: A Framework for Implementing US Commercial Energy Rating & Disclosure Policy.”

Increase understanding of value of energy efficiency improvements in real estate appraisals for the residential market

Currently the value of an energy efficient building (or the cost of an energy inefficient one) is not reflected in real estate transactions. Energy costs can impact a borrower’s ability to pay mortgages.

Goal: Determine if there are policy drivers that can drive reflection of value of energy efficiency improvements in a home’s appraisal. Currently proposed federal legislation – the SAVE act – is worth supporting. This idea could be implemented at the state or possibly local level.

Example: SAVE Act

Support large-scale bonding programs to support major retrofit programs

Many states and localities have access to relatively (sometimes very) cheap capital, which they could use to invest in energy efficiency – either as a revolving loan fund for commercial or residential retrofits, or to apply to their own facilities – such as a statewide school system. The use of QECBs should be considered.

Goal: Encourage states or municipalities to use bonding authority to address large projects or entire sectors, such as schools.

Example: Oregon Cool Schools bill.

Sustainable Pension Investments

Pension funds control billions of dollars that could be invested to create jobs and increase energy efficiency. Union pension funds especially have an interest in investments that have a job creation benefit. However, they are conservative by nature and need to see energy efficiency programs as secure investments.

Goal: Work with pension funds to create investment opportunities in energy efficiency that they see as secure.

Example: Pending

Re-establish Residential PACE as viable repayment mechanism for retrofits

Programs employing the Property Assessed Clean Energy  repayment mechanism for residential properties have been on hold since the FHFA ruled that such programs posed an undue risk.

Goal: 1. Re-establish residential PACE as viable and trusted financing option by educating state and national leaders as to its importance. Support national efforts to overturn FHFA judgment on security of PACE. Status of current congressional bills can be found at www.pacenow.org 2. Support programs that are continuing with PACE financing.

Example: Babylon (technically BACE), Racine

Support commercial energy efficiency re-finance subsidy programs

Goal: Work with cities, states, and other funders to assist commercial property refinance programs to make energy efficiency a more attractive proposition for large commercial property owners.

Example: Pending

Push for CWA/High Road agreements that cover energy efficiency retrofit programs

Community Workforce Agreements or High Road agreements lay out the conditions under which work for a program is done. Negotiated between unions, contractors, community groups, and the program, they can specify wages, targeted hire, benefits, and other workforce conditions, while helping to ensure that projects are completed on time and on budget.

Goal: Support continued adoption of CWAs in ECC Cities.

Example: Portland

Encourage more widespread adoption of feed-in tariffs

Feed-in tariffs give certainty to producers of renewable energy by paying them a production-cost based rate per kw/h, allowing greater investment in clean generation.

Goal: Support feed-in tariffs to allow greater distributed generation, ideally in conjunction with energy efficiency investments.

Example: California

Best value procurement rules for all state and local contracts

Goal: Prioritize bidding of contracts to firms that have high-road values including investing in training, providing benefits, and past performance.

Example: Boston, Madison.

High Performance Building Codes

While not addressing the retrofit market directly, high performance building codes can support many of the jobs that ECC is seeking to create.

Goal: Increase the baseline requirements for building performance by adopting high performance building codes. Depending on state laws, can be enacted at city level as well.

More info:

  • Assessment of Electricity Savings through New Appliance/Equipment Efficiency Standards and Building Efficiency Codes report
  • See http://bcap-ocean.org/

State policies

Dedication of system benefit charges to payback systems

The majority of states have system benefit charges/public benefit funds whereby a small percentage of utility revenue is carved out to finance energy efficiency.

Goal: Use system benefit charge funds to finance revolving loan funds or credit enhancement mechanisms to create a large pool of capital to be invested in energy efficiency. Many extant system benefit charges spend their funds almost exclusively on rebate programs. For example, Wisconsin devotes $90 million per year to energy efficiency, but none of that is employed as a revolving loan fund or as credit enhancement to leverage private investment.

Example: NYSERDA, Connecticut Green Bank (more info here).

Support creation of state programs that support municipal retrofit programs, aggregating functions to make it easier for small programs to exist

The creation of a functioning energy efficiency retrofit program is beyond the technical capacity and resources of many smaller metro areas, especially with the end of the stimulus era. To reduce the startup cost, states, counties, or other aggregations of municipalities can centralize and streamline many of the functions of an energy efficiency program.

Goal: Reduce the upfront cost and burden of creating energy efficiency financing programs by centralizing functions such as loan origination, marketing, web development, program design contractor certification, etc., allowing smaller municipalities to create programs.

Example: Massachusetts Green Communities Program (Report here. Info on Green Communities Act here). Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence Whole Wisconsin Energy Efficiency Program (proposed).

Add equity as a requirement to Public Benefit Fund disbursal rules

Public Benefit Funds currently disburse a great deal of money to support energy efficiency. However, in most states this goes as rebates, most of which go to those who are able to pay for much of the investment already. Every ratepayer contributes to the public benefit fund, but only those who can already afford to invest in energy benefit from the fund and the efficiency and savings it creates.

Goal: Increase access for average or low-income ratepayers to PBF dollars, diminish subsidy effect to wealthy and commercial customers who find it easier to access rebate programs.

Example: MassCLU Green Justice Campaign. More detailed report here.

Energy Efficiency Resource Standards

Statewide energy efficiency resource standards, whereby a certain percentage of energy must be in the form of efficiency by a certain year have the potential to significantly reshape the energy efficiency market.

Goal: establish a state-wide goal for electric and gas savings targets for utilities (e.g. 2% per year)

More info: See map for states with EERS