In recent years, Missouri stakeholders have begun to focus on expanding energy efficiency opportunities to Missourians who reside in affordable multifamily housing. After years of dialogue, cooperation, negotiation, and lessons learned from other states, Missouri now has two approved programs being offered by Ameren Missouri and KCP&L that are designed to better reach these low-income and affordable housing tenants so that they can benefit from energy efficiency.

You can view Ameren Missouri’s “Community Savers”® program details here.

You can view KCP&L and KCP&L-GMO’s “Income-Eligible Multifamily program details here.

Challenges and Barriers

Many of the Missourians who would benefit the most from energy efficiency have some of the least access and least ability to participate in traditional utility energy efficiency programs. And, administrators of other low-income energy efficiency programs, such as the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, often focus their efforts on single family, rather than multifamily homes. A unique challenge for rental properties is that it is the owner, not the resident of the unit, who is the decision-maker for investing in efficiency improvements. This makes it difficult to market traditional efficiency incentives for these units.

Because low-income customers’ utility bills represent a higher percentage of their income than middle and upper income customers, low-income customers would benefit the most from reductions in bills. A 2016 study found that the median energy burden (percent of income spent on energy utilities) for low-income multifamily households was 6.36% and 6.25% in Kansas City and St. Louis, respectively—much higher than the median energy burden in those cities. Moreover, low-income customers are more likely to live in less efficient units to begin with: a 2014 study published by Gary Pivo published in Building Research & Information found that low-income multifamily apartments had 4.7 fewer energy efficiency features in 2009 compared with other households. Energy efficiency helps low-income tenants save money, it improves their comfort and health, and, where owners pay utility bills, it enables owners to maintain affordable rents and re-invest in their buildings. Therefore it is important to design creative solutions to overcome these problems so that tenants in multifamily affordable housing can benefit from energy efficiency.

History of Progress in Missouri Thus Far

Over the course of seven months in 2014, a diverse range of St. Louis area and statewide stakeholder from the affordable housing, energy, utility, regulatory, state and local government, and financing arenas met to discuss the unique challenges, barriers, and solutions associated with improving energy efficiency in multifamily affordable housing. This work culminated in the release of a White Paper in April 2015, which outlined the group’s general consensus on the barriers and solutions at hand, as well as recommendations for moving forward (while the paper represents broad consensus, it was not explicitly endorsed by each stakeholder). Parallel efforts occurred on a smaller scale in the Kansas City area in 2015. Partnership and engagement work was largely on hiatus in late 2015 and early 2016 while Ameren and KCP&L pursued approval of their new energy efficiency (MEEIA) programs by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

The St. Louis area White Paper, as well as subsequent brainstorming activities conducted in June 2016, form the basis for continuing activities by these stakeholders in the areas of: increasing building owner demand for energy efficiency, improving and expanding energy efficiency financing, leveraging the nexus of health and energy efficiency, and improving state-level policy. These activities focus on cross-sector learning and partnership and are led by partners in the Energy Efficiency for All initiative, which include Renew Missouri, Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corporation (St. Louis), and Blue Hills Community Services (Kansas City) as well as the National Housing Trust, the Natural Resource Defense Council, and the Energy Foundation at the national level. Please reach out to philip@renewmo.org to learn more or to get involved.

Click here to view the white paper “Scaling Up Energy Efficiency in Missouri and Illinois Multifamily Affordable Housing.”