Clean Energy in California

Day 3: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
by -- April 14th, 2012

Our next stop was Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, where we heard from Merrian Borgeson, Megan Billingsley, and Mark Zimring about residential energy efficiency. One of the main questions we discussed was this: if energy efficiency is such a panacea – energy bill savings, greenhouse gas emissions reductions, load reduction, increased home value – why isn’t everybody doing it? Well, it would appear that we are in need of some creative financing. The folks at LBNL are working on just that.

There are programs out there for low-income households, and they’re helping a lot of families save money and help the planet. But what about middle-income residents? They represent one third of the population; 63% of them own a home; their energy bills are $2,000 per year or more. But none of them qualify for the free upgrades currently being offered by various state and local agencies.

Additionally, energy efficiency projects are only eligible for unsecured financing, because they are not perceived as a “sure thing”. Those unsecured loan rates are currently hovering around 25%. Studies done by LBNL show that the rate would need to be 7% before people start pursuing loans for energy efficiency upgrades.

If we can start to treat energy efficiency as a resource, we might be able to get the right policies in place reach the full energy reduction potential. To do that, we should consider how energy efficiency financing programs might increase the leverage of program funds, increase demand for energy services (and thus improve the market for energy efficiency), increase access of middle-income families to energy efficiency, and potentially enable complimentary programs.

LBNL has a series of publications and further information available here:
http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/emp/ee-pubs.html
http://middleincome.lbl.gov/

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