Greetings Midwest BDC!

The latest IPCC report is out, warning that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025. That may seem daunting, but we’re doing exactly what we need to: organizing across our region to eliminate the costly, unhealthy, climate polluting fossil fuels from the built environment.

Earth Day, which is Friday, April 22, also gives us a chance to reflect and to hope. It’s worth considering what an impact the first Earth Day had on public perceptions about environmental protection. According to the EPA, “Public opinion polls indicate that a permanent change in national priorities followed Earth Day 1970. When polled in May 1971, 25 percent of the U.S. public declared protecting the environment to be an important goal, a 2500 percent increase over 1969.”

Environmental movements have done hard things, and continue to do hard things. Thanks to everyone who is helping grow our power to equitably decarbonize buildings across our region.

One specific way we did that together in the past month was by submitting comments to Wisconsin’s Public Service Commission as it plans for the next four years of statewide energy efficiency programming. Read more about this work below or on the blog.

In solidarity,

– Marnese, Margaret, Jacob, and Eric

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

This month, we’re spotlighting two active Coalition members: Dallas Conyers and Valera Rincon.

Dallas Conyers

Rev. Dallas Conyers works as a Body Restoration Specialist: teaching yoga, foods for healing, and spiritual reestablishment to help people become ABLE to live out their creation purpose. She is a certified Sustainable Agriculturalist, Beekeeper, and Greenhouse Husbandman. She uses her micro-farm to practice and educate others on: eco-system restoration, soil regeneration, no-till square foot farming, and pollinator cultivation; for our world and for our survival. Dallas delightedly sits under the leadership of Rev. Dr. M. Keith McDaniel as an associate at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church. Dallas is a member of the Midwest Building Decarbonization Coalition by way of US Climate Action Network where she chairs their JEDI Work Team. Dallas also co-leads our Equitable Policies Work Team.

Valera Rincon

Valeria Rincon focuses on a variety of climate and clean energy issues in the Midwest, including equitable building decarbonization and gas transition. Prior to joining NRDC, Rincon was a Stanford Haas Center climate justice fellow at Climate Resilient Communities and Stanford’s Future Bay Initiative, where she helped build and assess climate resilience among low-income communities in the Bay Area. She holds a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in sustainability science and practice from Stanford University. She is based in NRDC’s Chicago office.

COALITION BLOG

Focus on Wisconsin:

Coalition Makes the Case for Decarbonization and Electrification

View and share this blog online

If your gas boiler goes out in Wisconsin, should the state’s energy efficiency program help cover the cost of an electric heat pump? Or only another gas boiler of higher efficiency? Should the program be seeking to reduce carbon emissions? Should it support building electrification?

These are some of the questions currently before the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC), which considers changes to the statewide energy efficiency program, Focus on Energy (FOE), every four years. Decisions now will affect the 2023-2026 program cycle—a critical time to keep driving down greenhouse gas emissions from our buildings.

On March 31, the Midwest Building Decarbonization Coalition weighed in with one voice: let’s encourage decarbonization and stop protecting fossil fuel appliances from head-to-head comparisons with electricity.

“This is the key mechanism in Wisconsin for folks to make energy improvements to their homes and businesses. It’s done good work in the past but could be reconfigured to better serve the goal of decarbonization,” said Coalition Co-Director and Manager of Building Policy and Technology, Jacob Serfling. “This was a crucial phase for us to comment because of some of the big picture questions that PSC was asking about.”

FOE is also a crucial program to weigh in on because of its large footprint. All eight states in our region require electric and gas utilities to invest in energy efficiency programs. In some states, like Minnesota and Iowa, the utilities run these themselves. In Wisconsin, FOE is the unified statewide program that all the utilities in the state pay into. So, improvements to the program will impact the entire state.

Here are some highlights from our comments:

Focus on Energy should align with the state’s decarbonization goals.

The IPCC’s reports make clear that we must hit net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. As a state, Wisconsin recognizes this necessity. The Governor has a goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2050. We encouraged FOE to align with state-wide carbon reduction goals.

“Given that the median life for most natural gas heating equipment is 15-20 years, it is entirely possible that fossil fuel appliances incentivized by FOE and installed during Quad IV (2023-2026) would still be in operation by 2050.”

“It is critical that FOE not create a situation where it is incentivizing installations that will actually end up working against the state’s future decarbonization targets.”

Focus on Energy should support switching from fossil fuels to electricity.

Like many energy efficiency programs, FOE treats fossil fuel and electricity as apples and oranges: inefficient gas furnaces get upgraded to efficient gas furnaces, but it isn’t compared to an electric heat pump, even if it would triple the home’s energy efficiency. Keeping fuels in a silo means customers don’t see the benefits of electrification, and our communities miss out on the benefits of reduced fossil fuel use.

The reality is that fuel and electric are easily comparable as apples to apples, and the benefits of switching to electric are many.

“Goals for the program include higher energy efficiency, environmentally sound energy at reasonable cost, and promoting rural development. Supporting fuel-switching programs, especially ones aimed at electrifying homes reliant on propane or other unregulated fuels for heating and cooking, would strongly support all those goals. The higher efficiency of an air-source heat pump and relative costs of electricity compared to propane will typically result in lower utility bills and energy burden for households currently reliant on propane. This statistic may be helpful here: Customers who switch from delivered fuels to electric heat pumps can save about $447 annually on their utility bills (https://www.rewiringamerica.org/policy/bringing-infrastructure-home-report).”

The next phase of FOE quadrennial planning focuses on narrower implementation decisions, and is scheduled to take place between April and June, 2022. Along with our Coalition comments, a number of our members and partners submitted comments.

Read our full comments here. You can also learn more about FOE on their website, or read the Quadrennial planning process memo from the PSC here.

COALITION CALENDAR

To view upcoming working group meetings and other Coalition events online, visit midwestdecarb.org/calendar.

April 6: Health Working Group

The Health Working Group meets monthly on the first Wednesday at 12pm Central / 1pm Eastern. To participate, please email Emma Hines.

April 7: AWHI Steering Committee

The Midwest Advanced Water Heating Initiative Steering Committee meetings the first Thursday of each month at 10-11am Central / 11am-12pm Eastern. To participate, please contact Jacob.

April 7: Governance Working Group Meeting

The Governance Working Group meets every other Thursday at 9am Central / 10am Eastern. To participate, please email Marnese.

April 12: Affordable Housing/QAP Working Group

This group meets every third Tuesday at 3pm Central / 4pm Eastern. To participate please email Marnese

April 13: Coalition Monthly Meeting

Our next monthly meeting will be on Wednesday, April 13 at 2pm CST / 3pm EST. Send any agenda suggestions or additions to Marnese. If your announcement item will take more than 2-3 minutes, please get on the agenda ahead of time.

Agenda:

  1. Intro and icebreaker (2:00 CST/3:00 EST)
  2. Member spotlights
  3. Working group report outs
  4. District energy ground-source heat pump presentation
  5. Announcements
  6. Evaluation
  7. Closing (3:30 CST/4:30 EST)

April 20: Equity Working Group

This group meets every month on the third Tuesday at 12:30pm Central / 1:30pm Eastern for 90 minutes. To participate please email Marnese

April 21: Governance Working Group Meeting

The Governance Working Group meets every other Thursday at 9am Central / 10am Eastern. To participate, please email Marnese.

April 26: New Member Orientation

New member orientation is every 4th Tuesday of the month at 12pm Central / 1pm Eastern. Click here to register.

April 26: Michigan Building Decarbonization Coalition Meeting

This group meets monthly on the 4th Tuesday at 1pm Central / 2pm Eastern. For more information, please contact Charlotte Jameson with MI Environmental Council. 

April 27: Local Codes and Standards Working Group

This group meets every month on the fourth Wednesday at 3:30pm Central / 4:30pm Eastern. April’s meeting will feature Cara Spencer (Building Energy Exchange St. Louis) and Emily Andrews (USGBC-Missouri Gateway) going further in depth on Building Performance Standards and how it got passed in St. Louis. To participate, contact Jacob.

May 3: Affordable Housing/QAP Working Group

This group meets every third Tuesday at 3pm Central / 4pm Eastern. To participate please email Marnese

May 4: Health Working Group

The Health Working Group meets monthly on the first Wednesday at 12pm Central / 1pm Eastern. To participate, please email Emma Hines.

May 5: Governance Working Group Meeting

The Governance Working Group meets every other Thursday at 9am Central / 10am Eastern. To participate, please email Marnese.

May 5: AWHI Steering Committee

The Midwest Advanced Water Heating Initiative Steering Committee meetings the first Thursday of each month at 10-11am Central / 11am-12pm Eastern. To participate, please contact Jacob.

For full details about all Coalition working groups, keep reading.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Buildings Needed! DOE Commercial Energy Code Field Study

The U.S. Department of Energy has contracted with Slipstream to lead its Commercial Energy Code Field Study being conducted in the Midwest. We are looking for commercial buildings larger than 75,000 sq. ft. with complex HVAC (heating and cooling controlled by a BAS) to participate in this study. Click here for details and next steps.

Specific details to qualify:

  • Large office or high-rise multifamily building
  • Over 70,000 SF
  • Complex HVAC (heating and cooling controlled by a BAS; no single zone, constant volume package or split units like RTUs or PTACs)
  • Completed between Jan 2021 and early 2023.
  • Targeting projects in Madison, Milwaukee, Twin Cities and Chicago (although we are also considering projects throughout WI, MN and northern IL and other cold climate states)

CIRRUS Low Carbon Financing Will Support Commercial Building Carbon Reduction

PACE Equity and New Buildings Institute (NBI) recently announced the first and only financing option for owners and developers to benefit from a differentiated cost of capital when they build a lower carbon building. This groundbreaking approach called CIRRUS™ Low Carbon encourages owners/developers to use C-PACE financing with lower rates when they build more efficient buildings, charting a practical and financially beneficial path to building decarbonization. The program is available for new construction and renovations based on the CIRRUS Low Carbon Design Specification for Low Carbon Financing which was developed by NBI in partnership with PACE Equity. Learn more here.

Electrifying Industry’s Process Heat Supply with Industrial Heat Pumps, ACEEE: April 6

Join the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) for a webinar exploring how Industrial Heat Pumps have advanced and can be implemented to rapidly reduce GHG emissions. Attendees will hear insights from an expert panel on how to lower the energy and GHG footprint of process heat (to enable sustainability goals, and return business value), accelerate adoption of IHPs by understanding starting opportunities, and where enabling policies can make a difference to realize state and federal GHG reduction goals. Click here for details and registration.

Electrify Wisconsin Event: April 21

The Beneficial Electrification League and the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association are hosting a meeting focused on the theme “Opportunities Abound for Beneficial Electrification.” This is a great opportunity for Wisconsin stakeholders to discuss how to make the most of electrification opportunities in Wisconsin. Details and registration here.

Application Deadline for EPA Research Funding on Energy Transition in Underserved Communities: April 28  

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications proposing community-engaged research that will address the drivers and environmental impacts of energy transitions in underserved communities. For purposes of this competition and the evaluation of applications, “underserved communities” refers to populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, that have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life, including people of color, low income, rural, tribal, indigenous, and other populations that may be disproportionately impacted by environmental harms and risks. Click here for details.

Iowa Association for Energy Efficiency Scholarship: May 1

The Iowa Association for Energy Efficiency (IAEE) is currently accepting applications for a 2022 scholarship. To help ensure the continued success and development of future energy efficiency professionals in Iowa, a $1,000 scholarship may be awarded annually. All eligible applicants are encouraged to apply by May 1, 2022. The scholarship award will be announced in July and the award recipient will be highlighted at the IAEE Iowa Energy Summit. Payment will be sent to the school by August 2022. Click here for details.

Job Openings

Do you have announcements to share?

Send it to Eric at fowler@fresh-energy.org

RESOURCES

The People’s Justice40+ Community Benefit Playbook: A Guide to Capturing Federal Infrastructure Investments, Emerald Cities Collaborative

All Electric Kitchens: Residential and Commercial, Volume 5 of The Building Decarbonization Practice Guide, William J Worthen Foundation

Decarbonising buildings: achieving zero carbon heating and cooling, Climate Action Tracker

Indigenous Principles of Just Transition, Indigenous Environmental Network

REPEAT | Rapid Energy Policy Evaluation & Analysis Toolkit, repeatproject.org

Energy Savings and Impacts Scenario Tool (ESIST), US EPA

#ElectrifyforPeace, Rewiring America

Energy Equity for Renters Policy Tracker, ACEEE

NATIONAL AND REGIONAL NEWS  

Heat pump water heaters in cold climates, Slipstream, March 3, 2022

Understanding the Role of Buildings in Environmental Justice Institute for Market Transformation, March 3, 2022

How Will We Decarbonize Affordable Housing?, Affordable Housing Finance Magazine, March 4, 2022

As Energy Prices Soar, Weatherizing Homes Gains New Appeal, Bloomberg Quint, March 7, 2022

Why You (and the Planet) Really Need a Heat Pump, WIRED, March 16, 2022

Energy bills: Natural gas is expensive, dirty and financing war. Here are 5 ways to use less of it, CNN, March 16, 2022

Op-Ed: How can the White House fix environmental injustice if it won’t take race into account?, LA Times, March 18, 2022

St. Louis’ new building energy standards find 65% of big buildings noncompliant, Saint Louis Public Radio, March 21, 2022

Realtors can be ambassadors for energy efficiency, Yale Climate Connections, March 21, 2022

The Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance is training them to talk about home energy performance.

A Heat Pump Might Be Right for your Home. Here’s Everything to Know, New York Times, March 28, 2022

*Geothermal heat pumps are among the most earth-friendly home energy sources, experts say, Washington Post, March 29, 2022

DOE Will Assist 22 Communities With Locally Tailored Pathways to Clean Energy, Department of Energy, March 29, 2022

Experts say blending hydrogen into gas pipelines won’t work, Canary Media, March 29, 2022

Podcast: The Bronx fire underscores America’s energy insecurity crisis, Canary Media / The Carbon Copy, March 30, 2022

Minnesota bill aims to close a gap on funding for ‘pre-weatherization’ work, ENN, March 31, 2022

A suburban state lawmaker’s bill would supplement federal weatherization funding with $60 million over the next three years, nearly doubling the money available and providing crucial flexibility to cover “pre-weatherization” work.

Podcast: Audrey Schulman and Zeyneb Magavi on how to replace natural gas with renewable heat, Volts, April 1, 2022

* Asterisk indicates that, unfortunately, the article is behind a paywall, and can only be viewed by paying subscribers.


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