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This Home is a Total Zero (Good!)

March 17, 2017 - 9:32am

There are many paths to building a highly energy efficient new home, including Passivehaus, Living Building Challenge and the soon-to-be-released ASHRAE 90.2 standard. Policies designed to save energy are also driving up demand for efficient housing. California, for example, will soon require that all new homes be zero net energy.

Given increasing interest for such innovative homes, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which people across the country are able to just pick their favorite energy efficient home from a subdivision full of zero net energy (ZNE) homes.

Enter Pulte, the third largest home builder in the country, and their prototype zero net energy home. Their ZNE prototype is part of the ZNE Production Builder Demonstration pilot being sponsored by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) in response to California’s 2020 requirement. The potential sea change is that this is not a “California only” home; forward-looking Pulte is looking to roll out these energy efficient homes across the nation.

Keys to the (Energy Efficient) Castle

The prototype is a pleasant looking two-story home with a two-car garage and large, welcoming front porch and blends in well the other “standard” homes on the block. But there are plenty of differences.

Key to the design is a building envelope with low air leakage and high thermal performance. In addition to creating a quieter, more comfortable home with improved indoor air quality, the high performance envelope reduces the heating and cooling load, allowing for a smaller, more efficient mechanical system – in this case a 19 SEER, multi-speed heat pump. The second key is reducing the overall electric load. The prototype has all LED lights, ENERGY STAR appliances and high efficiency ventilation fans. Once the building loads are as small as possible, the last step to zero net energy is on-site energy production. The prototype home features a next generation 14-panel (about 250 square foot) solar array capable of producing 4.34 kilowatts.

Looking to the Future

The prototype home will be monitored for a full year after it is sold with the energy consumption and overall performance continually assessed. Lessons learned will then be applied to future ZNE homes, and the implications for utility load balancing and fuel mix assessed.

When one of the largest home builders in the county gets behind ZNE homes, it makes you think that the day may not be far off when a ZNE home no longer needs the acronym – it will simply be what a buyer or renter expects from a home. And that will be a healthy change for everyone.

Michigan’s IRP Assessment Kicks Off this Week

March 7, 2017 - 5:30pm
The MPSC’s IRP Authority

One big story coming out of the Michigan energy package enacted this past December is the significant authority given to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on a number of critically important facets of energy policy analysis, administration and implementation.

The MPSC’s new IRP process (PA 341 Section 6t) is one of numerous changes to Michigan’s energy administration and planning framework enacted at the end of 2016. The IRP will serve as the utilities’ short-, medium- and long-range supply-side and demand-side energy capacity planning process. This planning process will work alongside the annual energy waste reduction requirements to bolster the state’s energy savings and economic impacts. The new laws (PA 341 and 342) position Michigan as a regional leader and will move the state forward on clean energy investment, including energy waste reduction in particular.

An Opportunity to Shape the Process

This week, the MPSC will hold a meeting to initiate the newly-enacted integrated resource plan (IRP) assessment process. The meeting on March 10 will initiate discussions amongst the various stakeholders, during which interested parties will form working groups to shape the eventual utility IRP filing process. The MPSC’s IRP assessment is required in order to provide utilities with the necessary assumptions and modeling scenarios they will need to file their IRPs.

MEEA will be in attendance on March 10, and we look forward to participating in the IRP stakeholder process to ensure energy efficiency is valued as a resource on equal footing with other generation.

The initial meeting will be held on Friday March 10, at 9:30am at the Michigan Library and Historical Center, 702 W Kalamazoo St, Lansing, MI 48915, in the Forum Room. For those unable to attend on March 10, the MPSC intends to provide further information at www.michigan.gov/energy and at www.michigan.gov/mpsc, including ways for stakeholders to become involved, in the coming weeks.

For a primer on integrated resource planning, download our IRP fact sheet.

Background on New Energy Laws

On December 21, 2016, Governor Snyder signed into law a comprehensive energy bill package (PA 341/PA 342) that the Michigan legislature passed on December 15, 2016, the very last day of its “lame duck” fall session. At present, the laws bring to a close the debate that began in early 2015 with a proposal for full repeal of the mandated electric and natural gas energy optimization standards.

The new laws will require the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to initiate a process for, and the utilities to file, three-year integrated resource plans, wherein such plans will serve to compliment the 1% (electric) and 0.75% (natural gas) energy efficiency standards. The law also removes a 2% cap on the rates that utilities can charge customers to pay for energy efficiency programs – a move that will ensure the programs are adequately funded to achieve the required annual targets.

Lastly, numerous mechanisms are now in place to spur utility investment, including: cost-recovery, electric decoupling, financial incentives and tiered shared savings incentives.

New Research: Tailoring EE Programs for Multifamily Buildings

March 3, 2017 - 10:52am

Multifamily housing is a substantial portion of the housing stock in Midwestern states, making up 11-22% of the housing market, depending on the state. Energy efficiency for multifamily housing seems like a sure bet. Estimates show possible energy savings in multifamily affordable housing as high as 22-31%. Nevertheless, there are significant barriers in the way of achieving those savings. A combination of program design and policy approaches can overcome these challenges.

Bridging Theory and Practice

Given the number of recent papers about multifamily efficiency, we were interested in whether these approaches for reaching more multifamily buildings with energy efficiency are making their way from theory to practice in the Midwest. MEEA’s latest report, Well-Suited Energy Efficiency: Tailoring Programs for Multifamily Buildings , analyzes the trends in multifamily building energy efficiency programs in Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio. We chose these states for a couple of reasons: first, utility reports from those states had sufficient program-level data to enable our analysis; and second, they provided an interesting mixture of policy environments. Iowa and Minnesota are states with long experience in energy efficiency with stable, long-term energy efficiency policies. Indiana and Ohio, on the other hand, adopted strong energy efficiency policies less than a decade ago but have had subsequent changes that eliminated or weakened those policies.

We classified the multifamily (MF) energy efficiency programs offered by the investor-owned utilities in the four states as being “MF-Inclusive” – programs that include multifamily as one of a number of eligible customer types – or “MF-Exclusive” – programs that are targeted at multifamily as the only eligible customer type. We then classified these programs further as to whether the programs were Residential (providing EE measures inside the residential unit), Commercial (providing EE for building common areas, Low-Income (specifically targeting low-income customers), or Cross-Sector (providing EE measures in both residential and common areas of the building).

What We Found

What we found was generally encouraging. Our analysis shows that:

  • There is a gradual shift toward MF-Exclusive programs, and these programs are growing as a percentage of total energy efficiency portfolios.
  • MF-Exclusive programs account for 1.3–6.0% of annual electric energy efficiency spending and provide 0.3–2.9% of annual electricity savings.
  • MF-Exclusive programs account for 2.3–4.1% of annual natural gas energy efficiency spending and provide 1.4–3.6% of annual natural gas savings.
  • Multifamily customers make up about 8 to 12 percent of participants in MF-Inclusive programs (based on very limited data).
  • The proportion of spending on multifamily programs compared to the total spending on all energy efficiency programs is substantially lower than the proportion of multifamily to single-family housing, though it is generally rising.
  • The shift toward MF-Exclusive programs and the growth of multifamily programs as a component of energy efficiency portfolios is strengthened by a stable, long-term energy efficiency policy environment, where programs can mature over time and be tailored based on performance and evaluation over successive program cycles.
Dive Deeper with our New Whitepaper

We are making progress on getting a better fit between energy efficiency programs and multifamily customers, but we aren’t all the way there yet. Leading utilities in the region are tailoring their programs to multifamily customers and working to close the gap. The proportion of multifamily housing in the market is still higher than the proportion of multifamily energy efficiency in portfolios; however, the trend in the states we studied shows that utilities are trying to reach multifamily customers with programs that seek deeper energy savings for these customers.

Read the paper for our recommendations to drive greater savings in the multifamily sector.

Ditch the Switch

March 2, 2017 - 10:00am

At any moment there are thousands upon thousands of lights on all across America that are lighting rooms that no one is in. These unattended lights are wasting countless kilowatts of energy and a ton of money for the owners. But there is a simple solution that is becoming more and more common: the occupancy sensor. Currently, automatic lighting shutoffs of some kind are required in commercial buildings that are greater than 5,000 square feet, but there are a lot of smaller spaces, residences and public buildings that can benefit from the use of occupancy sensors as well.

The EPA estimates energy savings from occupancy sensors to be 40% to 46% when installed in a classroom, 13% to 50% in private offices, 30% to 90% in restrooms, 22% to 65% in conference rooms, 30% to 80% in corridors and 45% to 80% in storage areas. Depending on the sensor’s location and settings, the up-front costs can be covered by the savings on your utility bills within just months of installation.

Not only are occupancy sensors great for energy savings, they are also great for security by showing whether an area is occupied or not. They help reduce light pollution as well by reducing light usage at night.

And on top of all the other benefits, they’re also incredibly convenient. There is no more need to blindly search for a light switch in a dark room or put down everything you’re carrying. And don’t worry about forgetting to turn off the lights – they’ll take care of themselves.

Photo credit: Scott Robinson / Flickr / link

St. Louis Passes Benchmarking Ordinance

February 7, 2017 - 10:46am

On Monday, January 30, St. Louis, MO became the fifth city in the Midwest to pass a mandatory energy benchmarking ordinance.

The “Building Energy Awareness” ordinance requires certain buildings to record annual whole-building energy and water consumption data into the free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software. City-owned buildings will lead the way benchmarking in the first year under the ordinance. Privately-owned commercial buildings 50,000 sq.ft. and larger will need to comply by April 1, 2018. Both city- and privately-owned buildings will be required to report their consumption information each year thereafter.

The ordinance passed unanimously in less than two months from its introduction, likely because St. Louis is no stranger to taking action to reduce energy consumption in buildings. The St. Louis High Performance Building Initiative was launched in 2014, which includes building benchmarking and goals of reducing energy consumption in buildings 25% by 2020. St. Louis is also part of the City Energy Project, a national initiative to cut energy waste in buildings in twenty US cities.

Cities across the nation continue looking to benchmarking ordinances to help achieve energy reduction goals. Benchmarking is the first step to achieving deep energy savings in buildings, which comprise around 40 percent of energy consumption in the United States.

ASHRAE Residential Code Nears Completion

February 6, 2017 - 11:37am

After a hiatus of more than a decade, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is close to completing the update of the residential building code ASHRAE 90.2: Energy Efficient Design of Low Rise Residential Buildings. ASHRAE 90.2 is the companion standard to the better-known ASHRAE 90.1, which is the energy efficiency standard for commercial and high rise residential buildings.

The new code will provide a powerful tool to help advance energy efficiency in residential buildings, providing long-term cost saving, comfort and health benefits to homeowners and renters. It also will provide a template available to utility above-code programs, municipalities and states looking for stretch codes.


ASHRAE 90.2 is a leadership standard in that ASHRAE intends it to be more energy efficient than current energy codes. Dwellings that meet this standard will use significantly less energy than a building meeting even the most recent energy codes. The foreward to the code says:

“This new Standard 90.2 seeks to deliver residential building energy performance that is at least 50% more efficient than the energy efficiency defined by the 2006 IECC.”

IECC is the International Energy Conservation Code, which is widely adopted across the nation as the energy code for residential buildings. The most recent code is the 2018 IECC, though 90.2 uses the 2006 IECC as a baseline standard to compare itself against.

ASHRAE 90.2 is a performance-based standard tied to aggressive Energy Rating Index (ERI) targets. In the most recent version of the IECC (2018), the ERI compliance path has values between 57 and 62 depending on the building’s climate zone (an ERI of 100 is roughly equivalent to the 2006 IECC and an ERI of 0 is a zero energy building). The proposed ERI values in ASHRAE 90.2 are slightly below 50. Moreover, ASHRAE 90.2 incorporates on-site renewables as well as enhanced sections on lighting and HVAC equipment. Finally, the standard has added sections on reporting and verifying results as well as guidance on verifying that the dwelling meets the requirements. While these sections are typically not included in codes, they are important to helping ensure that promised energy savings are realized.

What’s Next?

Currently, ASHRAE 90.2-2007R (the name of the proposed update), is under public review. A first round of review is being completed, and there will be at least one additional round prior to final publication (targeted for the Fall of 2017).

The Clean Power Plan Roller Coaster

January 24, 2017 - 12:09pm

A year ago, the Clean Power Plan (CPP) – a federal rule aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil-fuel burning power plants – was in peak health. The rule had been finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Several states were on their way to preparing their initial plans for complying with the CPP. The EPA had begun gathering public input on draft documents that would supplement the rule, including the Clean Energy Incentive Program, Model Trading Rules and Evaluation, Measurement and Verification (EM&V) Guidance for Demand-Side Energy Efficiency. Despite the chill of winter, there was no lack of CPP-activity.

What a difference a year can make!

On February 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on the CPP. This barred the EPA from enforcing the rule until its legality was resolved by the courts in a separate proceeding – currently before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  The decision raised questions about the position that the Supreme Court would take if the case against the CPP on the merits reached the highest court. The subsequent passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a typically conservative member of the bench, further muddied the waters on the prospective fate of the CPP. Nine months later, the CPP suffered another setback as the candidate who promised to undo the Obama Administration’s climate-protection policies was elected as the next President of the United States.

The Future of the CPP

So where does that leave the CPP today? Even if the CPP survives legal challenge, the likelihood that the rule will be fully implemented, in its current form, appears slim. Although President Donald Trump has not specified exactly how his administration would go about undoing the CPP, the rule may be eliminated or minimized in several different ways. This includes both legislative action (legislation invalidating the rule) and executive inaction (the incoming EPA withholding enforcement). If the case against the CPP reaches the Supreme Court (which is not expected until the Court’s 2017-18 term), the administration’s appointment of a conservative Supreme Court Justice to fill Justice Scalia’s seat may impact the rule’s fate as well.

Perhaps tacitly recognizing uncertain times ahead for the CPP, the EPA recently withdrew from interagency review a number of draft documents it had proposed in August 2015 when it issued the final CPP. These documents include the draft Model Trading Rules and draft EM&V Guidance for Demand-Side Energy Efficiency.  The draft Model Trading Rules offered pathways for states to use emissions trading to reduce carbon pollution. The draft EM&V guidance offered states a set of presumptively approvable practices for evaluating, measuring and verifying demand-side energy efficiency in order to support the incorporation of energy efficiency in state compliance plans. While withdrawing these proposed documents, the EPA made working drafts available to the public in order to share the agency’s work to date and aid states that are considering or are already implementing policies and programs that would cut carbon pollution from the power sector. The EPA specifically noted, in a blog post announcing the withdrawal, that “states interested in using or expanding energy efficiency programs” might find the material presented in the draft EM&V Guidance useful.

What This Means for Energy Efficiency

The CPP is not the first federal air quality rule allowing the use of energy efficiency as a compliance strategy, but it is arguably the most prominent. While the future of the CPP remains indeterminate, the work done by the EPA and other stakeholders supporting the incorporation of energy efficiency into state compliance plans can be a valuable resource going forward. Taken together, this work strengthens the case that energy efficiency provides not only important economic, health and job-creation benefits, but also can be a cost-effective pathway to improving air quality.

Benchmarking Heats up in the Midwest

January 17, 2017 - 10:00am

In the last month, energy benchmarking at the city level has really heated up in the Midwest. Benchmarking policies have proven to be a crucial first step to achieving energy savings for cities. Buildings comprise around 40 percent of the total energy consumption in the United States.

Kansas City, MO

Kansas City is preparing for its first privately-owned buildings to report under the Kansas City Energy Empowerment Ordinance. All non-municipal buildings (institutional, commercial, and multifamily residential) of at least 100,000 square feet must submit their energy and water consumption data by May 1, 2017.

In preparation for the reporting deadline, MEEA, the US Green Building Council – Central Plains chapter and the Kansas City Energy Project are providing free benchmarking technical support for multifamily buildings on January 25, 2017. Attendees will learn how to use the free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software and even set up their own buildings with the help of energy professionals. Space is limited; click here to sign up for this free event.

St. Louis, MO

St. Louis, Missouri is aiming to become the fifth city in the Midwest with a mandatory energy benchmarking ordinance. On December 9, 2016, Alderman John Coater introduced the potential benchmarking ordinance, which unanimously passed the Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee on January 10, 2017. It will likely be voted upon by the city council on January 17th.

If the ordinance passes, city-owned buildings, and privately-owned buildings 50,000 sq.ft. and larger will be required to report their annual whole-building energy and water consumption data into the free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software. The ordinance would help reduce building energy use, which is an objective of the city’s Sustainability Plan. Read more about the ordinance here.

Evanston, IL

On December 12, 2016, the Evanston City Council voted 7-2 to pass the Building Energy and Water Benchmarking Ordinance that had been in development since March 2015. The ordinance will help Evanston meet energy goals by requiring city buildings and buildings over 20,000 square feet (besides small condos) to report annual energy and water consumption. Buildings will be phased in according to size, with the first phase of buildings beginning to report June 30, 2017.

Chicago, IL

Chicago released their 2016 Energy Benchmarking Report and the second annual release of building-level energy performance data for properties reporting under the Chicago Benchmarking Ordinance. The ordinance now covers more than 3,500 properties across Chicago, and boasts a 91% reporting rate. Initial analysis also indicates that regular energy tracking and reporting is having a significant impact on supporting energy reductions, with potential to achieve additional energy savings of over $200 million a year across the city. The next reporting deadline for all buildings covered by the ordinance is June 1, 2017.

Clean Power Plan Update

January 13, 2017 - 12:29pm

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) carbon emissions standards for existing power plants, otherwise known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP), are currently stayed by the Supreme Court and are being litigated on the merits at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Even if the CPP survives legal challenge, the likelihood that the rule will be fully implemented appears slim following the U.S. presidential election. President-elect Donald Trump has stated that he wants to eliminate the CPP, although he has not specified how his administration plans on doing so. Eliminating or minimizing the effect of the CPP may be accomplished in several ways, including via legislative action (legislation invalidating the rule) and executive inaction (EPA withholding enforcement). MEEA is continuing to monitor the approach taken by the incoming administration towards the CPP.

The EPA recently withdrew a number of draft documents it had proposed in August 2015 when it issued the final Clean Power Plan. These documents include the draft Model Trading Rules and draft EM&V Guidance for Demand-Side Energy Efficiency.  The draft Model Trading Rules offered pathways for states to use emissions trading to reduce carbon pollution. The draft EM&V guidance offered states a set of recommended practices for evaluating, measuring and verifying demand-side energy efficiency in order to support the incorporation of energy efficiency in state compliance plans. While withdrawing these proposed documents, the EPA made working drafts available to the public in order to share the agency’s work to date and aid states that are considering or are already implementing policies and programs that would cut carbon pollution from the power sector. The EPA specifically notes, in a blog post announcing the withdrawal, that “states interested in using or expanding energy efficiency programs” might find the material presented in the draft EM&V Guidance useful.

If you have any questions concerning the CPP, please contact MEEA’s Senior Policy Manager, Julia Friedman, at jfriedman@mwalliance.org.

Iowa Releases State Energy Plan

January 9, 2017 - 2:48pm

On December 21, Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, along with  the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress released the Iowa Energy Plan. The plan will serve as a guide for the development of an affordable, reliable and sustainable energy system within the state that maximizes Iowa’s economic potential.

The Iowa Energy plan is the result of a yearlong collaboration between state government, utilities, universities, business organizations, nonprofits, energy trade organizations and the public. As part of the plan’s stakeholder engagement effort, six public forums were held throughout Iowa in March and April to provide members of the public with an opportunity to share input. To leverage expertise from a variety of disciplines and industries, 48 individuals were selected through an application process to form four working groups. These four working groups were aligned with the strategic energy pillars identified as integral to the development of the plan, they include: 1) economic development and energy careers, 2) Iowa’s energy resources, 3) transportation and infrastructure and 4) energy efficiency and conservation. Working group members met over a six-month period to provide input to shape the recommended objectives for each pillar.

Energy Efficiency Objectives

The energy efficiency and conservation working group members identified three objectives: 1) increase the energy efficiency and decrease the operating costs of Iowa’s existing and new buildings in all sectors, 2) encourage the expansion and diversification of energy resources, incentives and programs and 3) lead by example in Iowa’s government practices. To achieve these objectives, several strategies were identified, including benchmarking commercial and industrial utility rates to similar states, benchmarking industrial sector ratepayer program contributions, reinvesting public building energy savings in infrastructure, combined heat and power opportunity analysis, improve building energy code compliance, foster collaboration between the state energy office and Iowa Energy Center and expand the existing public building benchmarking program.

Moving Forward

The next phase of the Iowa Energy Plan will involve the implementation of the identified objectives and strategies. Entities involved in the development of the plan, as well as additional stakeholders and members of the public, are invited to reconvene to discuss successful plan implementation. Look to the Iowa Energy plan website or join the Iowa Energy plan email listserv for more information regarding the specifics in the near future.

For questions about MEEA’s resources and activities related to energy efficiency policy in Iowa, please contact Policy Associate Leah Scull at lscull@mwalliance.org.

St. Louis Considers Benchmarking Ordinance

January 5, 2017 - 12:39pm

St. Louis, Missouri is aiming to become the fifth city in the Midwest with a mandatory energy benchmarking ordinance. On December 9, 2016, Alderman John Coater introduced a potential benchmarking ordinance which would help reduce building energy use, an objective of the city’s Sustainability Plan.

The ordinance is similar to other benchmarking measures in the Midwest, suchas those in Kansas City and Chicago. It would require certain buildings to record annual whole-building energy and water consumption data into the free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software. Under the ordinance, city-owned buildings will be required to report their energy consumption by December 31, 2017, while privately-owned buildings of 50,000 sq.ft. and larger will have until April 1, 2018. Each year thereafter, both city- and privately-owned buildings will be required to report their consumption information, which the City of St. Louis will then disclose in an annual report. An overview of the ordinance can be found here.

Benefits of Benchmarking

Benchmarking is the first step to achieving deep energy savings in buildings, which comprise around 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in St. Louis. Tracking energy and water consumption can help cities identify where to put resources to improve energy efficiency, and can help building owners understand how to best reduce utility bills for themselves and their tenants.

A study of over 35,000 buildings concluded that benchmarking alone resulted in an average of 2.4 percent energy savings each year. Utility programs can further increase energy savings by providing incentives to make capital improvements, if the building owner chooses.

What You Can Do

The Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee is slated to hear the public testimony on the ordinance on Tuesday, January 10. Please email your comments here, addressed to Building Commissioner Frank Oswald.


Note: a previous version of this post contained an incorrect date for the upcoming Public Safety Committee meeting. The error has been corrected.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

January 4, 2017 - 12:48pm

Here in Chicago where MEEA is based, the winter months get so cold the air hurts my face. During my walk to work a few days ago, I’m pretty sure I was close to becoming an actual Popsicle. The long nights and lack of sunshine only exacerbate the pain.

When the weather outside is colder than the surface of Mars (seriously), there is no better feeling than coming inside to a warm, cozy home. While we battle the harsh Midwest winter, let’s be sure to keep our homes nice and toasty the responsible way. There’s no reason to waste energy and money by trying to overcompensate for sub-par insulation and drafty windows. Try a home energy audit!

A home energy audit and simple home improvements can cut down your energy use, lower utility bills and keep your home comfy and warm. Here in the Land of Lincoln, Illinois Home Performance can help.

Once you select a participating contractor to install your upgrades, not only will you enjoy the benefits of an energy-efficient home, you’ll also receive a certificate that can increase the resale value of your house! Save money on your energy bill now and sell your home for more money later – that’s the power of an energy audit.

To connect with a qualified energy auditor today, visit illinoishomeperformance.org.

Stay warm out there!

Kasich Vetoes Extension of Energy Efficiency Freeze

December 29, 2016 - 11:08am

Photo credit: Arlenz Chen

On December 27, Ohio Governor John Kasich vetoed Substitute House Bill 554 (Sub. HB 554), which would have extended the two year freeze of the state’s renewable portfolio standard and energy efficiency resource standard (EERS). Specifically, Sub. HB 554 would have imposed an unenforced 1% annual energy savings requirement through 2018, an enforced 1% annual energy savings requirement through 2025 and a 2% annual energy savings requirement through 2027.

Background on the Freeze

Senate Bill 221 (SB 221), which created Ohio’s EERS, requires investor-owned electric utilities and retail suppliers to achieve savings through energy efficiency programs equal to at least 0.3% of sales, gradually ramping up to a cumulative 22% in electricity reduction by 2025.

In the years since SB 221’s passage, Ohio’s EERS has been tremendously successful; annual savings increased twelve-fold and Ohio utilities have collectively exceeded the savings targets every year since 2009 by an average of more than 50% above the target. Despite this success, legislation signed by Kasich in 2014 froze both the EERS and renewable standards for two years.

The Thaw Begins

On November 1, MEEA Policy Manager Nick Dreher and Policy Associate Leah Scull held individual meetings with several Ohio legislators in Columbus. MEEA reviewed the impact of energy efficiency in Ohio and the reduction in energy efficiency investment and energy savings since the repeal of the efficiency standard in Indiana, in addition to discussing the 2016 report by MEEA and the Cadmus Group, The Economic Impacts of Energy Efficiency Investments in Ohio, which found that energy efficiency investments in 2014 alone resulted in nearly 3,000 new jobs, more than $175 million in increased statewide income, about $270 million in total net economic value and over $500 million in net sales.

MEEA staff also submitted written testimony to both the House Public Utilities and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committees during the Sub. HB 554 hearings.

Kasich Cites MEEA Research in Veto

With Kasich’s veto of Sub. HB 554, Ohio’s EERS will resume on January 1, 2017 at 1% annual energy savings through 2020 and 2% thereafter. In his statement of the reasons for the veto, Kasich stated that “the bill would deal a setback to efforts that are succeeding in helping businesses and homeowners reduce their energy costs through increased efficiency.” The governor’s statement also cited The Economic Impacts of Energy Efficiency Investments in Ohio report: “Energy efficiency investments from 2009- 2012 alone have yielded $1.03 billion in savings to date and will result in $4.15 billion in lifetime savings thanks to the state’s existing energy efficiency standards.”

What Lies Ahead

Despite Governor Kasich’s veto of Sub. HB 554, the 2014 bill that created the two year EERS freeze, Senate Bill 310, also made some notable changes to SB 221 that remain in effect. For example, utility upgrades to transmission and distribution unrelated to reductions in their customers’ energy usage, now count towards the EERS targets. Utilities can also count energy savings achieved independently by customers towards their overall compliance with the target. SB 310 also established an industrial opt-out, which allows large energy users to avoid paying into utility energy efficiency programs.

More Information

For questions about MEEA’s resources and activities related to energy efficiency policy in Ohio, please contact Policy Associate Leah Scull at lscull@mwalliance.org.

Update (1/6/17): Sections were added detailing MEEA’s policymaker outreach and the future of EE in Ohio. 

Michigan Gov. Snyder Signs Pro-Efficiency Energy Package

December 22, 2016 - 12:03pm

On December 21, 2016, Governor Snyder signed into law a comprehensive energy bill package (PA 341/PA 342) that the Michigan legislature passed (as SB 437/SB 438) on December 15, 2016, the very last day of its “lame duck” fall session. PA 341 amends PA 3 and PA 342 amends PA 295. The new language will give additional authority to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to 1) initiate a process for reviewing utilities’ integrated resource plans on a three year basis and 2) administer various regulatory mechanisms.

The legislation retains the current 1% (electric) and 0.75% (natural gas) annual energy efficiency standards. However, beginning in 2021, the MPSC will open a docket to determine the appropriate mandated energy efficiency targets for each rate regulated electric provider. 2022 will mark the first year that standards might differ from existing standards and this docketed evaluation will occur every two years.  Despite the possibility of adjusted standards, mechanisms are expected to spur utility investment, including: cost-recovery, electric decoupling, financial incentives and tiered shared savings incentives. Lastly, the legislation removes a 2% cap on the rates that utilities can charge customers to pay for energy efficiency programs.

During the legislative process, MEEA provided informational materials and testimony to legislators, including the recently released MEEA/The Cadmus Group report on the Economic Impacts of Energy Efficiency Investments in Michigan.

For questions or information on additional details, please contact Policy Manager Nick Dreher at ndreher@mwalliance.org.

Conference Recap: 7th Annual Midwest Building Energy Codes Conference

December 15, 2016 - 12:52pm

The MEEA Codes team took their talents to Cleveland, OH where they held the 7th Annual Midwest Building Energy Codes Conference from November 15 -16, 2016. This event was a success with two productive days of networking and discussion among a diverse group of building efficiency professionals in the Midwest (and some from the coasts). Building professionals were represented from Federal, State and Local Energy Offices, Federal National Laboratories, Consulting Agencies, Non-Profits, and Code Enforcement Agencies. MEEA invited experts from across the Midwest and Nation to discuss timely topics related to building energy code adoption, compliance and enforcement – these are described below.

Commercial Energy Codes 101

Conference attendees enjoyed a breakfast of champions by learning about the Model Commercial Energy Code (ASHRAE 90.1-2013) to start the conference. Although this presentation was extra credit for those early risers, attendees were in their seats, eager to gain a better understanding of the Commercial Energy Code.

Introduction to Building Energy Codes

To “officially” start the day, Isaac Elnecave welcomed everyone to the conference and discussed the purpose of the Codes Conference. This was also a time to recap energy code successes in various states in the Midwest. A MEEA recap sheet can be found in the link below.

Panel 1: Multifamily Energy Efficiency and Codes

Multifamily buildings tend to be the odd building out when it comes to energy codes. This panel discussed the unique difficulties multifamily buildings face in terms of air leakage testing and lays out a rationale for developing a single energy code for multifamily buildings, instead of splitting them between the Residential and Commercial chapters in the IECC.

Frank Spevak, The Energy Conservatory

Jim Edelson, New Buildings Institute

Panel 2: Multifamily Compliance Code Official Forum

Given that multifamily buildings are split between two chapters in the IECC and certain code requirements are difficult to meet, there are often buildings that fail to comply with the energy code. During this panel, local code officials discuss common compliance issues they uncover when inspecting multifamily buildings in the field. Alison Lindburg from MEEA takes the following code officials through a series of pointed questions and the audience works together to discuss possible solutions.


  • Richard Burton, Building and Safety Department, City of Lincoln, NE
  • Emily Hoffman, NYC Department of Buildings, NYC, NY
  • Tim Manz, Building Inspection Department, City of Blaine, MN
  • Tom Vanover, Building and Housing, City of Cleveland

Panel 3: Making Multifamily High Performance

It is often said that building affordable multifamily projects with energy efficient features that go above the Model Energy Code is impossible due to funding constraints. However, the speaker in this panel put that myth to rest with several examples of how his firm is bringing Net-Zero (buildings that produce more energy than they consume) to affordable multifamily buildings. Tim McDonald understands that, in order for a building to truly be affordable, one must consider the cost of construction and long-term energy costs to the renter.

  • The PFHA Project – A National Net-Zero Energy-Capable Affordable Housing Initiative

Tim McDonald, Onion Flats

Panel 4:  2018 IECC Development Process

Over the past year, building efficiency stakeholders recommended changes to the 2018 IECC and met twice to hash out these proposals during the development process. The IECC is updated every three years and the final vote on this update took place at the beginning of November. This presentation discussed how the code is developed and what changes might be included once the 2018 IECC is finalized.

Eric Makela, Cadmus Group

Panel 5: Water Efficiency in the Code

Although water use is not regulated in the Model Energy Code, these presenters talk about the potential to save energy when water use is reduced in buildings.  These speakers recommend two different approaches to reduce water use in buildings, one is through added language in the energy code and the other is by using a water modeling program called the Water Efficiency Rating Score (WERS).

Karen Hobbs, National Resources Defense Council

Mike Collignon, Green Builder ® Coalition

Panel 6: Lighting up the Commercial Code

Day one finished with an in-depth discussion on the often mysterious lighting portion in the Model Commercial Energy Code. Learn about some of the energy considerations lighting designers make on a daily basis with this presentation.

Eric Richman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Networking Dinner: After a long day in the classroom, attendees were ready to explore the Cleveland nightlife.


Energy Codes Conference Recap: Day 2Panel 1: Ventilation

The residential chapter in the Model Energy Code requires that buildings meet and are verified to have a certain level of air leakage As builders begin to push the envelope (pun intended) and buildings become tighter, the type and rate of mechanical ventilation becomes a hot topic of discussion. This presenter outlines the various types of mechanical ventilation and displays best practices for tight and efficient homes.

Patrick Huelman, University of Minnesota Extension

Panel 2: Commercial Compliance Studies

Compliance studies are an effective approach to understanding how buildings are being constructed and outline the aspects of the energy code that engineers, designer’s, and builders could use additional training. During this panel we heard from three speakers on different ways to develop and implement a commercial compliance study in the field.

Poppy Storm, Ecotope, Inc.

Russ Landry, Center for Energy and Environment

David Cohan, Department of Energy

Panel 3: Testing Commercial Buildings

Although conducting a blower door test is not a requirement in the Commercial Model Energy Code, this is a clear path to achieve deeper energy savings in all building types. In this panel we hear about the recent adoption of the 2015 IECC in NYC which includes an amendment to require blower door tests on certain commercial building types.

Emily Hoffman, NYC Buildings Department

Panel 4:  Getting to a Zero Energy Ready Code

This panel brought in energy code experts to discuss how to achieve more robust energy codes in jurisdictions and states throughout the nation. With the development of stretch codes, these areas have become efficiency leaders with the adoption of codes that go above the Model Energy Code. Our speakers and attendees discussed the potential for this energy code mechanism to eventually move the Model Energy Code from its current level to a zero energy code.

Alison Lindburg, Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance

Cathy Chappell, TRC Energy Services

Jim Edelson, New Buildings Institute

Thank You

A big thanks to all our Super Energy Code professionals for making this Codes Conference another success – we couldn’t have done it without you!



Wisconsin Commercial Energy Code Veers Off Course

December 12, 2016 - 2:45pm

Despite holding several meetings over the last eight months about the proposed 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)/ASHRAE Standard 90.1 -2013 for commercial buildings, the Wisconsin Commercial Building Code Council (CBCC) made several unannounced changes to the proposed rule at their final meeting on November 16 that will result in reduced energy efficiency.

The discussion about the proposed energy code at previous meetings culminated in a working document that included some amendments that reflected current building practices in Wisconsin, but maintained the core level of efficiency embedded in the 2015 IECC/ASHRAE 90.1-2013. The State of Wisconsin is currently enforcing the 2009 IECC/ASHRAE 90.1-2007 by reference, so updating to an unamended 2015 IECC could save approximately 18% in energy use.

But without notice, at the end of the November 16 meeting, the CBCC recommended a code that is significantly less efficient than what they had originally discussed.

Updating to a Weaker Code?

The proposed rules (starting on pg. 15 found here) include the following  weakening amendments, in addition to several minor amendments:

Reduced the building thermal envelope to 2009 IECC levels

Maintaining the 2009 IECC thermal envelope efficiency levels would result in a missed opportunity to improve the level of above deck and metal building ceiling insulation by 33% and 36%, respectively, and attic insulation by 22%. If this increased level of insulation were required, buildings would be more comfortable and efficient.

Removed lighting occupant sensor requirements

The 2015 IECC expanded lighting sensor requirements to rooms that are visited frequently by occupants for a short period of time. These sensors help ensure energy is not wasted once an occupant leaves the room by automatically turning off the lights.

Removed system commissioning requirements

The 2015 IECC requires that mechanical systems are fine-tuned or commissioned to ensure they are operating properly and at the efficiency levels listed in the original specifications. With the removal of this requirement, equipment may not operate at optimum efficiency and could be required to be replaced more frequently.

Removed the added efficiency package requirement

The additional efficiency package provides options for designers to improve the efficiency of the building through increased efficiency in one of six building components. If this package were included in the Wisconsin code, depending on which option the designer selected, the building could be up to 10% more efficient.

With these changes, the proposed code is significantly less efficient than model code for commercial buildings.

It is important to note that, of the five states in the Midwest that MEEA has assisted in the adoption of the 2012 or 2015 IECC or ASHRAE 90.1 -2010 or 2013 for commercial buildings, none of them have proposed amendments that weaken the efficiency of the commercial code to this degree.

Not only does this proposal leave significant commercial energy savings on the table, but given the changes, these buildings will have reduced occupant comfort and may not be operating to the level of efficiency agreed upon in the design phase due to lack of building testing. If approved, this code will likely go into effect in April or May of 2017 and will not be updated for another three years, as required by state legislation.

Stand Up for Sensible Energy Codes

Now that these rules are proposed, there are two periods in which the public can submit comments to voice their concern about the impact this will have on building owners, businesses and renters. According to this notice, the CBCC is accepting comments that discuss the level of economic impact this rule will impose on Wisconsin businesses and residents until December 28. Another notice will be issued to accept comments about the merits of the rules as a whole in January.

For questions or comments, please contact Ian Blanding, MEEA’s Senior Building Policy Associate.

Evanston Workshop Opens Eyes on Benchmarking

December 9, 2016 - 12:04pm

Buildings comprise around 40 percent of the total energy consumption in the United States, and benchmarking policies have proven to be a crucial first step to achieving energy savings.

The Evanston City Council is currently considering a water and energy benchmarking ordinance to better track and reduce energy waste and costs for its residents. The proposed ordinance has been in development since March 2015, and the council is expected to vote on the ordinance at its Monday, December 12 meeting.

Benchmarking Training

On December 6, the City of Evanston, MEEA and the USGBC-IL held a free workshop in Evanston to answer questions about the ordinance and empower residents with tools to track and reduce their energy costs.

The workshop was attended by owners and managers of condo associations, worship facilities, offices, residence halls, assisted and senior living facilities, and even an alderman. Many attendees were curious about the benchmarking ordinance and how it might impact them.

The workshop gave a brief overview of the benchmarking software, ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, and then paired attendees with experienced volunteers to help them open their own accounts, answer questions and set up their buildings in the software. Many attendees were surprised by how quick and easy it was to set up, track and report their energy use.

If the ordinance passes, future trainings will be held to help residents take control of their water and energy use through benchmarking.

What Can You Do?

The Evanston City Council will vote on the proposed benchmarking ordinance on Monday, December 12. Citizens of Evanston are encouraged to attend and/or contact their aldermen about the ordinance.

City of Evanston Benchmarking Ordinance Information Page
Evanston Building Energy and Water Use Benchmarking FAQ
Evanston City Council Meeting Agendas and Minutes


What Does Illinois’ New Energy Bill Mean for Energy Efficiency?

December 8, 2016 - 3:13pm

After more than two years of legislative proposals and negotiations, on Wednesday, December 7, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law the Future Energy Jobs Bill (SB 2814). The bill, which contains support for renewable energy, nuclear energy and energy efficiency, was passed by the Illinois legislature on December 1, the last day of veto session, with bipartisan support and will take effect June 1, 2017.

As a non-lobbying organization, MEEA did not take a position on the legislation, but did provide Governor Rauner’s office with information on the performance of energy efficiency in Illinois since the establishment of the portfolio standard and the impact in other states of self-direct programs and opt-out policies. As this legislation moves towards implementation, MEEA staff will continue to educate and reach out to policymakers.

Don’t have time to read all 500 pages of the bill? Here’s an overview of the energy efficiency provisions which were included and removed from the final version.


Energy Efficiency Targets

Beginning in 2018, ComEd will achieve 7.8% cumulative persisting annual electric savings. This number ramps up every year through 2030, at the end of which ComEd will achieve 21.5% cumulative persisting annual savings.

In 2018, Ameren Illinois will achieve 7.4% cumulative persisting annual electric savings. Ameren Illinois’ target ramps up to 16% cumulative persisting annual savings by the end of 2030.

The Illinois Commerce Commission does have discretion to adjust these goals.

Planning Cycles

Current programs will be extended six months through the end of 2017 so that program implementation efforts will align with the calendar year going forward.

Beginning January 1, 2018, utilities will be required to file and implement four-year demand-side management plans with the Illinois Commerce Commission. This is a change from the current 3-year cycle.

Rate Impact Cap

One of the primary concerns that Governor Rauner and others had with the legislation was its cost to consumers, specifically rate increases. While energy efficiency may arguably be the most accessible energy option for giving customers control over – and the ability to lower – their energy bills, rate impact caps were placed on the energy efficiency portion of the legislation. Moreover, the entire legislation has a rate impact cap.

The existing rate impact cap is at 2%. The new legislation raises the cap according to the following schedule:

  • 3.5% for the each of the 4 years beginning January 1, 2018
  • 3.75% for each of the 4 years beginning January 1, 2022
  • 4% for each of the 5 years beginning January 1, 2026

If the actual or projected average monthly increase for residential customers for the cost of the entire bill is projected to or actually exceeds $.25 in ComEd’s territory and $.35 in Ameren’s territory, then the utility must make adjustments to the programs enabled by this legislation. If the cap exceeds or is projected to exceed this limit for two years in a row, the utility may file to terminate some of the programs. Utilities can still recover costs on investments made prior to program termination. Programs that can be altered include the energy efficiency and the zero emission credit programs.

For Ameren Illinois’ and ComEd’s commercial and industrial (C&I) customers, if the actual or projected average annual increase for C&I retail customers exceeds 1.3% of $.089 per kilowatt-hour, the utility must make changes to or terminate programs. This cap covers the combined impact of the renewable energy, energy efficiency and zero emission credit programs detailed in the legislation.

Performance Incentives

This legislation includes both performance incentives and penalties to encourage electric utilities to meet their energy savings goals. Incentives and penalties are applied to the utility’s return on equity. Penalties and incentives are tailored for ComEd and Ameren Illinois, and for both utilities, the threshold for earning a penalty or incentive varies over time.

Large Energy User Exemptions

Customers that have a peak demand of or over 10 MW for 30 minutes in ComEd’s territory and 15 minutes in Ameren’s territory are exempt from participating in utility demand-side management programs beginning on June 1, 2017. MEEA does not expect that customers will be allowed to aggregate their loads.

Public Sector and Low-Income Energy Efficiency

Beginning in 2018, electric and natural gas utilities will administer public sector and low-income energy efficiency offerings that are currently administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Once the utilities take over these programs, Ameren Illinois and ComEd must use 7% and 10%, respectively, of their annual funds for public sector energy efficiency programs.

ComEd is required to allocate at least $25 million annually to low-income energy efficiency programs administered by a third party. Ameren Illinois must dedicate a minimum of $8.35 million for third party administered programs serving low-income customers. Taken together, the allocation of funds for low-income programs represents a doubling of current levels of investment. Electric utilities are also required to convene low-income advisory committees to inform the delivery and design of these programs.

Odds and Ends

The Illinois Commerce Commission will be overseeing an energy efficiency installer certification. This certification will be required of all those working with utility rebate and incentive programs.

Electric utilities can pay for natural gas efficiency measures and count natural gas savings to meet up to 10% of their electric savings targets annually.

Electric utilities may count their investments in voltage optimization towards their energy savings targets, but the spending on voltage optimization does not count towards the rate impact cap calculation.

Up to 3% of an electric utility’s annual budget may be used for program evaluation.

What Got Nixed

A version of the compromise legislation introduced before Thanksgiving included provisions to implement demand charges in both ComEd and Ameren Illinois’ territory. This bill also included subsidies for in-state coal plants and five pilot microgrid projects within ComEd’s territory. Each of these elements was eliminated in the final version.