Blog Post: By Susana Reyes, Vice President of the City of Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners
Historically, it seems that the newest energy technologies tend to benefit the most affluent people first, while lower income households face the highest energy burdens. This has been true for customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) as we’ve seen through energy dynamics and policies played out over decades.
While LADWP has worked to expand energy efficiency, solar, electric vehicles and other clean energy programs in energy burdened communities that would improve their air quality and lower their electricity bills, those programs haven’t gone far enough.
Today, LADWP is ready and committed to making real change happen. The current LADWP leadership has acknowledged that past energy policies have unfairly impacted disadvantaged communities, creating problems that the Department is now putting its substantial muscle into rectifying. High energy burdens are linked to higher respiratory diseases, increased economic hardship, and an inability to get out of poverty due to barriers and limited access to resources.
LADWP has taken concrete steps to address the historical, institutional, and structural energy dynamics that have led to energy inequities for frontline communities, their businesses and residents. A prime example is the new Comprehensive Affordable Multifamily Retrofits (CAMR) program, an important step to reducing the energy burden for low-income renters. They are among our most vulnerable customers but are unable to benefit from many cost-saving rebates, solar power, and other clean energy programs due to lack of access and affordability.
LADWP staff is preparing to launch the $75 million program in the spring of 2022. As its name implies, CAMR will bring a comprehensive approach to retrofitting multifamily properties with energy efficiency measures, building electrification, and on-site solar installations. The program is expected to reach more than 3,000 affordable housing units during the first year, reduce energy consumption by an average of 40 percent per property, and avoid 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next five years.
At the same time, the program will help boost skilled, green jobs at family-supporting wages for the local workforce. CAMR is the result of an intensive stakeholder engagement effort with the Energy Efficiency for All coalition, which included housing, community and labor partners and identified the energy and sustainability benefits CAMR is designed to achieve.
Through CAMR, participating property owners will receive free energy assessments for their buildings and assistance in scoping out retrofit projects based on opportunities for energy savings, cost reductions, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction for both common areas and tenant units. We designed the program so that incentives are highest for measures that will reduce the energy costs paid by tenants, such as energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems, windows and insulation, and refrigerators within their units.
CAMR will provide the foundational block for building participation in many of LADWP’s existing rebate programs and other sustainability and decarbonization initiatives, such as rooftop solar, that support the utility’s transition to a carbon-free energy future while helping to reduce barriers to clean energy and cost-saving programs. For example, we are investing $15 million per year to expand the Home Energy Improvement Program (HEIP), which provides free energy efficiency retrofits using standard efficiency measures installed by LADWP, and will work in tandem with the CAMR program. To meet the increased workload as we launch CAMR, expand HEIP, and augment other efficiency programs, we have created over 60 new green jobs within LADWP.
To encourage solar installations on apartment rooftops in Los Angeles, property owners who qualify can receive incentives to go solar, lowering the energy burden for themselves and their tenants through LADWP’s Virtual Net Energy Metering program (VNEM). This program allows property owners and developers to install solar photovoltaic systems at a multifamily property and sell the energy generated to LADWP. A minimum of 40 percent of the proceeds must be distributed among on-site tenants, allowing multifamily tenants to experience first-hand the savings solar power provides.
Another important benefit is that CAMR incentives can help multifamily property owners afford efficiency measures to comply with the city of Los Angeles’ Existing Buildings Energy and Water Efficiency (EBEWE) benchmarking ordinance. CAMR will help defray the costs of retrofits and assist building owners with meeting the ordinance requirements.
CAMR is based on the state’s Low-Income Weatherization Program (LIWP) for Multifamily Properties but has been customized and enhanced to meet our local needs and objectives, such as ensuring the construction workforce on CAMR projects receives the prevailing wage. We partnered with IBEW to develop ‘level playing field’ requirements. This way, non-IBEW contractors can participate, expanding job opportunities, as long as they follow same trade workforce requirements established in California.
As a former Director of Low-Income Customer Access at LADWP, I am gratified that this comprehensive program will soon be providing much-needed assistance to help reduce the energy cost burden for low-income renters and owners of multifamily housing.
To learn more about CAMR, visit www.ladwp.com/camr.