Scores of Richmond residents converged in Churchill Wednesday to learn about energy efficiency while touring Better Housing Coalition’s Somanath Seniors Apartments and Lofts at Beckstoffer’s, a local EarthCraft™-certified multi-residential property. The property features several “green” components, including rooftop photovoltaic and solar thermal panels, an energy recovery ventilation system, and EnergyStar appliances, in seven net-zero energy apartments.
“There are few things that deliver a greater bang for your buck than investing in energy efficiency,” said Zack Miller, Virginia Housing Coalition Policy Director. “Energy efficiency improvements in homes will ensure that families have more money, every month. Estimates show that by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system, electricity bills could shrink by about eight percent. That would mean $159 in savings per household and more than $1 billion in total savings for Virginians.”
“Virginia has almost 400,000 affordable multifamily homes, and a disproportionate number of renters have low household incomes,” stated Deron Lovaas of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Urban Solutions Program. “Virginia has the potential to cut electricity usage in those households by 28 percent, reduce gas usage by 19 percent, with huge returns on those investments for renters and owners alike.” Thankfully, Virginia is leading the nation in using energy efficient design to save money for residents of affordable rental housing.
According to Andrew McCoy, Director of the Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech, “a recent study on EarthCraft™-certified low-income housing tax credit multifamily rental housing projects conducted by Housing Virginia and the Center for Housing Research found that on average, using energy efficient design in affordable housing saves tenants over $600 per year, which can amount to greater than 5% of a family’s annual income.”
As the largest energy consuming sector in the world, buildings account for over one-third of total energy consumption. In Virginia, the residential sector represents 25% of Virginia’s total annual energy use, and apartment housing accounts for 20% of all residential usage. This makes buildings an important source of carbon dioxide emissions. From worsening air pollution and allergens across the state, to increased flooding in the Hampton Roads area, Virginians are already feeling the effects of climate change here in the Commonwealth. By reducing our need for fossil-fuel powered energy through energy efficiency, we reduce the amount of carbon pollution spewing into our atmosphere.
“This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to roll out the final rule of its Clean Power Plan,” stated Jessica Greene, Climate Organizer with Virginia Conservation Network. “This plan sets the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants by establishing state-specific emission rate targets. The Clean Power Plan will give us the tools to combat climate change before it’s too late to avoid its worst impacts.”
“Investing in energy-efficient technologies is an affordable and pragmatic solution to the imminent threat of climate change”, said Susan Hill, Executive Director of the Richmond Region Energy Alliance. “With 97% of climate scientists in agreement that human activity is immensely changing the planet’s climate, energy efficiency will reduce carbon pollution and thereby provide long-term benefits for our health, environment, and economy.”
The Virginia Conservation Network is a diverse network of over 120 conservation organizations committed to protecting Virginia’s natural resources. The Virginia Housing Coalition is dedicated to supporting organizations and individuals working to provide affordable housing options in Virginia.