The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has awarded $3.5 million to MCE to conduct a two-year, Low-Income Family and Tenants (LIFT) pilot program to better serve income-qualified multifamily communities in MCE’s service area.
As residents of income-qualified multifamily housing, renters face multiple barriers to participating in energy efficiency programs, including fear of property owner retaliation, lack of control over any significant upgrades made to their units, concerns about sharing personal information, immigration enforcement actions, and financial constraints. To help alleviate these challenges, outreach efforts for the LIFT program will be aimed towards property owners and managers.
To participate in the program, residents are required to be at or below the 200 percent Federal Poverty Guidelines. This income qualification was determined by the California State Legislature and is the same as CARE eligibility requirements, allowing CARE customers, who receive a minimum 20 percent discount on gas and electric rates, to automatically qualify for LIFT.
“Through the LIFT pilot program, we will expand the reach of our carbon-reducing energy programs to low-income customers so they can benefit even more from lower bills and improved quality of life,” said Dawn Weisz, CEO of MCE. “MCE was founded on the belief that everyone has the right to affordable, clean, renewable energy service and programs, and we will continue to work to ensure that income level will not be a barrier to access.”
$1,200 per unit is available to fund energy efficiency improvements and appliances in 1,400 multifamily units for items such as pipe insulation, more efficient lighting, Energy Star refrigerators, and air conditioners.
The LIFT program will build upon the success of MCE’s Multifamily Energy Efficiency program, which has already distributed $433,424 in rebates for 1,785 units in affordable properties. In 2017, MCE committed another $107,240 in rebates for affordable properties. Property owners that utilize both the LIFT program and MCE’s existing Multifamily Energy Savings program can have up to 80 percent of the total project costs covered through the combined rebates.
Additional rebates for purchasing and installing heat pumps will be available for 215 units, to support the transition from gas heating to high-efficiency electric heating and cooling equipment for cleaner, safer homes, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Participants who receive heat pumps will be trained to operate and troubleshoot their new equipment. The heat pump component of the pilot program will gather data to inform one side of the larger policy question on the relative costs and benefits of the electrification, as compared to investing in natural gas infrastructure.