Georgia Power Company’s Integrated Resource Plan Provides More Inclusive Energy Efficiency Access
By Alex Trachtenberg
A multifamily affordable housing energy efficiency (EE) program including access to whole-building data was proposed by Southface and the Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) Georgia team as part of the 2016 Georgia Power Company Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) brought before the Public Service Commission (PSC). Historically, Southface has participated in the PSC Demand Side Management Working Group as an advocate for more EE investment, and has partnered with Georgia Power on EE programs. This year, however, Southface was also an intervener in the IRP proceeding.
Southface and other partner organizations in Georgia joined EEFA in 2015, a national program designed to increase utility investment in EE programming for existing multifamily affordable housing. Southface and the EEFA Georgia partnership designed an EE incentive program for this segment of the market which includes many of Georgia’s low-income residents. In Georgia and metro Atlanta, the multifamily affordable housing EE program is critically important because many individuals, families and households are faced with difficult decisions to either put food on the table or keep the lights on. In 2014, the Atlanta Community Food Bank reported that 76 percent of their client households have had to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities.
EEFA Georgia’s proposed program would promote whole-house comprehensive EE retrofits and incentive levels based on energy savings, serve as a one-stop shop for property owner-managers to access all available incentives and provide whole-building data. Access to whole-building data enables owner-managers to make more informed decisions with regard to building improvements by tracking how much energy a property consumes and what that energy costs.
On July 28, the 2016 IRP proceeding came to a close with the PSC ordering a clear investment in low-income multifamily affordable housing EE. The order currently instructs Georgia Power to dedicate $1.5 million per year for the next three years to EE programming for low-income multifamily affordable housing. This funding will be reallocated from the company’s existing Home Energy Improvement Program ($500,000) and Low Income Weatherization budget ($1 million). The PSC’s IRP order also creates a $2.5 million pilot budget for Demand Side Management and EE programs, and directs Georgia Power to address how these funds may be applied to EE programming designed to serve low-income communities.
While the final order does not contain the level of new, dedicated program funding desired by Southface and EEFA, this is still a big step in the right direction for Georgia. The 2016 IRP establishes a new program for low-income multifamily affordable housing – a drastically underserved market segment that stands to benefit greatly from EE in terms of increased affordability and comfort. The new program will make implementing EE retrofits much more attractive and feasible for property owner-managers, and beneficial to their bottom line as well as the bottom line of their low-income residents.
Georgia’s low-income families are found across the state, not just in Atlanta. Georgia has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. In 2014, the percentage of Georgians living in poverty, calculated as a three-year average, was more than 17 percent, making Georgia the state with the ninth highest poverty level in the country.
Over the coming months and years there will be a lot of important work to promote and ensure that low-income residents have affordable, comfortable and healthy homes. Southface and the EEFA Georgia partnership are encouraged by these initial steps, and are excited about future opportunities to better serve Georgia’s multifamily affordable housing owner-managers and low-income residents.