Recapping the Residential Energy Efficiency Summit

PEC had the opportunity to partner with GTECH Strategies and Conservation Consultants, Inc. to host the Regional Energy Efficiency Summit on Tuesday, April 28. This event brought together more than 50 participants including representatives of local and state government, financing agencies, the real estate industry, home energy audit companies, community development, and non-profits.

Lindsay Baxter
Lindsay Baxter

The purpose of the event was to identify priorities for building off of the existing coalition to bring home energy efficiency to scale, with goals of saving energy and money, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, improving health and comfort, and creating jobs through the upgrade of our region’s housing stock.

The event kicked off with some background on the ReEnergize Pittsburgh Coalition, in which PEC participates and serves on the Steering Committee. Quick case studies of successful home energy programs featured Retrofit Baltimore, Clean Energy Works Portland, and Vermont Home Energy Score.

The meat of the event was a facilitated discussion around two key questions: “What are the barriers to increasing home energy efficiency in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County?” and “What are the potential solutions to these barriers?”

While you’ll have to wait until early summer for the release of the white paper that will be produced, I can share a sneak peak at some of the top ideas discussed. The barriers homeowners face include a lack of upfront funding and resistance to debt, lack of access to both information and contractors perceived to be reliable and trustworthy, and competing priorities for home investments.

We also heard feedback that energy efficiency improvements are “invisible.” If you have limited finances to make an improvement, are you more likely to install something that improves the aesthetics of your home and/or that is recognized by real estate appraisers (i.e. the oft-cited example of granite counter tops)?

Renters face a different barrier—the “split incentive” that occurs when the person who pays the utility bills, who will receive the savings, isn’t the same person who pays for the building improvements. (See the fact sheet PEC created on green leasing.)

Rest assured, the event suggested lots of options for working around these barriers. We look forward to continuing to partner with GTECH, CCI, and the rest of the ReEnergize Pgh. Coalition to sort through the feedback received to develop a regional agenda for residential energy efficiency.

If you’re interested in learning more, contact me at [email protected].