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BayREN Fights Climate Change with Energy Efficiency and Electrification

Since its inception in 2013, BayREN has fought climate change by implementing energy efficiency programs in the Bay Area, avoiding 126 million tons of carbon emissions in the process. Over that time, climate policies have increasingly addressed an urgent need for climate action. We are closely following the incoming Biden-Harris Administration’s plan to put the “United States on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050.”  A significant portion of the plan is devoted to the energy efficiency of existing buildings, reinforcing the importance of BayREN’s work.

As recognized by the Department of Energy (DOE), implementing energy efficiency programs is a cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions, save money, and move towards climate justice. With energy efficiency upgrades, homes and businesses save money on their energy bill and low-income communities that are disproportionally affected by a high energy burden also benefit. Additionally, investing in energy efficiency can preserve and grow affordable housing stock by reducing maintenance costs for building owners and pass down the savings to tenants. The benefits of energy efficiency upgrades extend to better home health and comfort by maintaining comfortable indoor temperature and reducing air pollution, mold, and pests. These home improvements are particularly beneficial for communities that experience poor air quality due to their proximity to pollution zones such as freeways or oil refineries. Often, these frontline communities are the same ones experiencing high energy burdens.

Part of the Biden-Harris plan is to retrofit 4 million buildings with energy efficiency improvements and reduce the carbon footprint of the U.S. building stock 50% by 2035, creating incentives for deep retrofits that combine appliance electrification, efficiency, and on-site clean power generation. BayREN is consistently looking for ways to expand energy efficiency benefits while supporting the region’s fight against climate change. One such effort is the suite of electrification (currently focusing on Heat Pump Water Heater (HPWH)) and energy efficiency programs. The Home+ program offers cash rebates to certified BayREN contractors for replacing conventional gas-fueled water heaters in single-family homes. Similarly, the Clean Heating Pathways program connects multifamily property owners with consultants to create a Zero Net Carbon plan that eliminates their building’s carbon emissions through electric technology installs. The plan provides a step-by-step roadmap and a list of incentives and resources. With a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, BayREN is also working with public utilities and Community Choice Aggregators to implement a region-wide midstream incentive program for HPWHs in homes. The effort includes workforce development, education for consumers, and installations of high efficiency equipment in low-income multifamily housing. HPWHs can be three times more efficient than the conventional water heaters found in the Bay Area, helping customers save money on their utility bills and create healthier and safer homes. In addition, BayREN is partnering with the Building Decarbonization Coalition, PG&E, and other energy providers on a statewide electrification campaign called the Switch is On. Stay tuned for more initiatives for 2021.

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