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July 31, 2013 Notes from Conference Call / Q&A

Attendees

Michele Crim, Andria Jacob, Kyle Diesner, Bill Beamer, Rachael Hoy, Vinh Mason, Taren Evans, Amanda Lopez, Claudia Arana-Colen, Demi Espinoza, Vivian Satterfield, Kristey Nguyen.

 

Notes

  • Tim Lynch welcomed everyone to the call and did the round of introductions.
  • He reviewed the purpose of the call, which includes providing some additional context on buildings and energy, and to provide an opportunity for clarifying questions.
  • Andria Jacob, the manager of clean energy programs with BPS, provided an introduction and overview for the topic are of buildings and energy. Highlights included:
    • Buildings are places where we live, work, play, worship, etc.
    • We want to focus on reducing electricity and natural gas that we use in those buildings, as well how dirty (e.g. carbon intensive) those fuels are.
    • We also need to pay attention to the buildings that exist today, as well as new buildings that we have yet to build.
    • Buildings are responsible for about 44% of the local carbon emissions.
    • People are often surprised by how much coal is used to generate the electricity we use in thePortlandarea.
    • Action areas focus on retrofitting existing buildings, ensuring new buildings are high performing, and that we increase the proportion of the energy that comes from renewable sources like solar.
  • Vinh Mason described the process that was used to develop the proposed Buildings and Energy actions. Staff reviewed the 2009 CAP actions, developed at a list of potential actions for the update (a list of about 40 to 50 actions). Staff then held a series of meetings with technical advisors to review the full list of actions and help identify top priority actions to a shortened list that is being presented to the Equity Working Group.
  • Tim Lynch talked about some of the County’s programs related to buildings and energy, including heating and weatherization (LIHEA – Low Income Heating and Energy Assistance program; and the Weatherization Assistance Program), as well as affordable housing retrofits. These programs are not included in the CAP because they are ongoing programs. The County is looking at ways to innovate around these programs, especially their grant programs. That work is ongoing.
  • Discussion:
    • There is an Energy Performance Score methodology from the Energy Trust of Oregon. It is a voluntary program. Most of this work is happening in residential market.
      • How often is it being used? We don’t know – would need to check in with some other parties to see if we can get that information.
      • In terms of how it’s promoted to prospective buyers – is it presented as a “potential savings” versus other homes? What the score is intended to do is clarify energy use, and expenditures for energy, and a carbon score. In the short-term it will be hard to compare House A to House B – but that is the ultimate goal.
      • The EPS is for new homes, the action says “all homes” – why is this? Currently there are tools for both new and existing…so the City/County’s goal is that it would be used for both.
    • Is there a potential opportunity for the PHB or others to offer incentives to buy homes that have a higher EPS?
      • There is an incentive from the Energy Trust fromOregonto help offset the cost of getting the EPS. The PHB is more focused on basic weatherization services, and haven’t really been focusing on EPS so far.
    • Is there a plan to apply an EPS to rental units?
      • The EPS that has been developed by the Energy Trust of Oregon is just for single-family residential. It would be hard to translate the score to an individual unit in a multifamily building – an EPS would probably be for the whole building, not an individual unit. However, an EPS could be used to help renters of single-family home.
    • Could there be a baseline score for multifamily units?
      • The action focused on energy benchmarking is likely the best fit for accomplishing this.New Yorkis doing some interesting work to collect data to compare the median energy performance.
    • Why access to utility data has been a difficult?
      • One of keys to success is to get at least one utility on board. The utilities are generally reluctant to share data of users. There is also a need to get large property owners to participate and support the efforts to have more transparency with data.
    • What are the criteria for the financing incentives?
      • There are a variety of approaches, most focused on spreading out the costs of the retrofit investments over a long period of time. Some of the approaches are tied to property tax system (known as PACE) and may help to reduce some of the barriers of access. For Clean Energy Works Oregon, initially there were very low credit criteria – a very non-traditional underwriting process. One of the challenges is that as people take out loans for the work, the loan amounts got to be fairly large. Because of low energy prices and moderate climate…it turned out that participants were paying about $20 to $25 more a month. The program became concerned about increasing debt burden. There is a gap for moderate income and/or near-low income homes where a program like CEWO may not be a good fit, and they don’t qualify for the low-income programs. There is ongoing work to try to come up with a financing program to try to address this gap – so those homes are saving money on a net basis each month. CEWO has been more successful in the workforce development aspects of the program.
    • Is the local carbon pollution tax regressive?
      • That is one of the most important questions to be asked about this action. There is no question that this has the potential to be a regressive tax – and there is a need to be sure that relief is giving to vulnerable populations. To make this more of a tax shift – reducing a tax elsewhere to compensate. The effects of climate change tend to be significantly regressive as well.
      • If you’re creating a clean energy fee or tax, what’s the money for? The intent is to put that money into a special revenue fund that is devoted to tackling the issues of climate change, and also funding this idea of a tax shift (e.g. relieve of income tax). Tax the behavior you don’t want to see (e.g. carbon emission generation), and provide relief things we want (e.g. employment).
      • Is the action written so vaguely because the City/County aren’t sure how they plan to approach this? It’s hard to make helpful recommendations without specifics, etc.
    • What are the options for lobbyingSalemto improve energy codes (since the City/County can’t exceed state codes)?
      • This has been an ongoing challenge. There may be an opportunity to get an exemption to the State code. There is also a voluntary code that exceeds the minimum standard (known as the Oregon REACH code). Objective 2, Action I, is focused on making progress on this.
      • There may be some options to make progress through the zoning code (e.g. the solar code). As well as looking at some of the “bonuses” given for improved performance. Maybe, a baseline level of performance that would be required in order to qualify for the other bonuses (see Objective 2, letter J).
    • The “non-technical description” was very helpful to the group, the group would like those in the future. For staff, developing the non-technical descriptions helped identify opportunities to improve the wording of the actions themselves to make them more understandable and accessible.
    • Sending out the notes and the recording ASAP would be appreciated.