The state of California created the Energy Savings Assistance (ESA) Program in the 1990s to address this disparity, produce cost-effective energy- efficiency savings, and improve the quality of life for low-income customers. However, the program has largely overlooked the unique needs of renters, who account for 42 percent of eligible households and whose energy expenditures run an average of 37 percent higher per square foot than their single- family counterparts.
Programmatic requirements and regulatory limitations, such as the requirement to separately provide upgrades to household units and common areas, strict rules on eligible measures, and a confusing patchwork of eligibility requirements, can make it even more difficult to deliver savings and health, comfort, and safety improvements.
Recognizing these longstanding challenges, the California Public Utilities Commission in November 2016 formally adopted new directives for the ESA program through 2020, including mandating the investor-owned utilities create a new $80 million program for common-area and whole-building measures in affordable housing with rent restrictions in the deed, and setting energy-savings targets by utility for the first time in the program’s history.
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