Bringing Power to the People: Community-Scale Energy Efficiency Improvements

5641953722_9267e3147d_bMultifamily building residents—renters in particular—often fall through the cracks of traditional energy efficiency offerings. Building residents rarely have the ability or long-term incentive to pay for energy upgrades in their homes, and building owners have little motivation to reduce energy costs borne by residents. Standard utility energy efficiency programs—which rely mainly on financial incentives to encourage participation—have had little impact in encouraging efficiency.


Last spring, a group of DUSP graduate students devised a new model for multifamily energy efficiency in a practicum course led by Professors Harvey Michaels and Larry Susskind. The students proposed a solution that was based in equal parts on the use of non-financial incentives to encourage participation through a engaged city-scale implementer and community-based social marketing techniques, and the better use of building and energy consumption data to identify and target areas for potential efficiency improvements. By orienting program offerings around the social networks of communities and leveraging the energy data sources available to implementers, this model could unlock energy efficiency savings that have previously been off-limits to program administrators.


As a result of this effort, NSTAR and the City of Cambridge are working with MIT to scope out a pilot energy efficiency program in Cambridge that takes into account the added complexity of the multifamily sector. Read the group’s report here.


Posted on September 27, 2013, in energy efficiency, environmental planning, environmental policy, housing. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I found this post very interesting as a recently attended a session at a conference based on the topic of energy-efficiency and how it relates to multi-family buildings versus single-family residential. The speaker explained that even when single-family homeowners do everything they can to make their homes more energy efficient, multi-family homes that make no effort have the same effect on the environment. This has been an everlasting struggle in the field of planning when it comes to renters in particular that have no interest in investing in a temporary residence. Also, in my graduate courses we have been discussing different tools that homeowners can utilize in order to gain tax and other financial incentives as well as non-financial tools to help guide homeowners in the right direction and limit blight/abandonment.

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