Multifamily Energy Efficiency: Reported Barriers and Emerging Practices, A New Report from the Energy Programs Consortium

by Mark Wolfe

“Multifamily housing has long been identified as a particularly chal­lenging area for energy conservation.” This sentence may sound like the beginning of one of the numerous reports published on the subject in the last few years. Instead, it comes from a 1995 American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) report surveying papers from the early 1980s that identi­fied opportunities for and barriers to energy conservation in low-income multifamily housing. Nearly 30 years later, papers continue to report and list many of the same barriers identi­fied in the 1980s.

The Energy Programs Consor­tium (EPC) has just released a report, funded by the JPB Foundation, that reviews more than 40 studies in an effort to identify key points and research findings on effective strate­gies to increase the energy efficiency of low-income multifamily housing. In brief, the EPC report finds that the studies agreed on many points, including the considerable opportu­nity to save energy and help reduce energy bills in a cost-effective way in multifamily housing; however, the studies also described a wide array of barriers and roadblocks that have hindered achievement of this potential.

According to the EPC, despite the wide variety of initiatives, pilots, and programs attempting to address many of the barriers identified, none of the studies suggest that any of these barriers have truly been “solved” or “removed.” The EPC report further states that future efforts to address any particular barrier or obstacle need not be undertaken anew, but instead may draw on the experiences and lessons learned from the pro­grams and efforts mentioned above, as well as the numerous others studies published over the last 30 years that they were unable to describe within the scope of their report.

The table on the following page lists the key barriers discussed in the EPC report. Although no common national solutions to these issues have been identified, some successful emerging practices are being dem­onstrated at the state and local levels of government, including “Pay for Performance,” on-bill finance, “one-stop shopping” program centers such as CNT Energy, and commercial PACE. These practices have the potential to significantly lever­age available dollars for low-income efficiency.

A copy of the report can be downloaded from the EPC website (

EPC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that conducts policy research and demonstration programs sponsored by the four main organization representing state energy and regulatory agencies: the National Association of State Energy Officials; National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association; National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners; and National Association of State and Community Services Programs.