Today, in concert with numerous advocates and cities around the country, we celebrate National Energy Efficiency Day. A concept that began as a strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change, energy efficiency is the practice of reducing the amount of energy resources required to provide products and services. To reduce carbon emissions, individuals, communities, and economic sectors have implemented a variety of strategies, including behavioral changes, smart transportation planning, manufacturing of efficient products, use of renewable energy sources and others. Yet much progress can still be made in our homes, which consume 22 percent of the nation’s energy each year. At the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) we recognize that implementing energy efficiency practices and standards can both reduce this level of consumption, and improve the health and affordability of our nation’s housing stock (especially when paired with other health and safety interventions), and we work actively with partners like the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and the United States Department of Energy to advance and support residential energy efficiency services.
In the United States, there are over 30 million homes with structural damages and safety hazards that need repair. Not only do these homes compromise occupant health, but they also reduce the efficiency of both the energy service delivery and energy usage in the home. Thus, it will take more energy to perform the same basic tasks in these homes than it would in homes without structural deficiencies, resulting in an increase in energy bills. According to the Energy Information Administration, there are around 37 million households in the United States that are energy insecure. That is, about 1 in every 3 households struggle to meet their basic energy needs, often due to both poverty and poor housing conditions that lead to inefficiency. This is a widespread issue, that points to the need for energy efficiency upgrades in our nations existing housing stock.
In addition to the reduction in energy consumption and energy bills, energy efficiency upgrades also provide other non-energy benefits or co-benefits. Studies have shown that energy efficiency can improve indoor air quality and thermal comfort, eliminate health and safety hazards present in the home, and enhance overall occupant quality of life. At GHHI, we strive to break the link between unhealthy housing and unhealthy families, and energy efficiency is a key piece of our strategy.
GHHI has partnered in several initiatives to advance energy efficiency services and deliver their benefits to those most in need. From our work with Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) to get more energy efficiency resources directed at multifamily housing to our collaborations with the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the Building Performance Institute, and other organizations to better integrate energy efficiency with healthy housing, energy efficiency remains a significant part of our mission. In addition, we are fortunate to be able to partner on two statewide initiatives in New York and Connecticut, in which we are looking to pilot programs designed to deliver comprehensive housing services, including energy efficiency and healthy homes improvements, to each state’s underserved populations.
This year, as a result of the continuous and relentless advocacy by the energy efficiency field, both energy assistance through Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and weatherization and energy efficiency funding though the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) received an increase in funding by $50 million and $6 million, respectively, for FY19. This is a tremendous feat given the current political environment around climate-related initiatives! Still, we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do!
Support energy efficiency and encourage your local government officials to declare October 5th “Energy Efficiency Day!”