Our Power and Rental Energy Efficiency

By Kira Stoller of the Iowa City, Iowa program.

The Our Power project has had a lot going on recently. Throughout our canvassing most people have been more than willing to listen to us talk about our project and some have even invited us into their homes to escape the heat. We have come across a number of residents- both renters and homeowners- who have expressed an interest in making their homes more energy efficient. Thanks to a donation from the University of Iowa we have been able to offer these individuals free low flow shower heads. Thus far, two homes in the Northside neighborhood have signed up for our weatherization and a few others indicated that they want MidAmerican to conduct a free energy audit of their property.

One of our main goals for the summer has been to find a way to solve the split incentive between landlords and tenants in making Iowa City rental properties more energy efficient. As it is, only one of the two parties is typically motivated to make energy improvements- the one receiving a financial benefit from doing so. In an effort to solve this problem we held two public forums in the hopes of gaining input from various community members on the matter. Planning these forums was made a lot easier with the help of consultant Sheila Samuelson of Bright Green Strategy. She took on the major task of contacting area landlords about our forums and assisted in publicizing the events.

Our first public forum took place on last Monday evening and despite the low turnout we had a productive discussion. Having Iowa City’s senior rental housing inspector and a representative from MidAmerican in attendance provided us with some unique viewpoints. There was a general agreement that part of the reason the issue may be difficult to resolve is the fact that energy efficiency is not typically one of the things that people weight heavily when debating where they want to rent.

Two of our group members were interviewed about the event and were featured on the evening news.

We saw an increase in attendance at our second forum and once again had some great conversation about the issue. A lot of emphasis was placed on the importance of education during this session. It was determined that it might be beneficial to highlight the amount of money that could be saved through practices such as home weatherizations in a more quantifiable manner such as “washing clothes in cold water and hanging them to dry would enable one to purchase 10 additional pizzas annually.”

Based on the discussions at the forums we plan to formulate a list of recommendations that can be presented to the city council sometime next month. Sheila will once again be helping us with this task. We hope to convince the council that small changes could have a major impact overtime.

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