Managing energy use and cost for a portfolio of over 11,000 affordable multi-family units can prove impossible without the right tools. At POAH, we own over 100 properties in 11 states and 4 climate zones, which not surprisingly, are different ages, have different designs, materials, energy systems, metering, and population types. All said, each building can operate drastically different. For this reason, POAH has dedicated a subset of their Design and Building Performance team solely to energy management.
There are a few common tools in energy management that provide POAH the information it needs to be both fiscally and environmentally responsible. First, a single resource to access aggregated utility costs and usage for all of POAH’s properties’ owner-paid accounts and, in some instances, resident paid-accounts as well. Second, POAH uses a tool to separate year-round energy loads vs. those that are seasonal, and finally a tool that can compare properties equally regardless of weather variations.
With these tools at our disposal, we can layer property square footage, resident unit totals, fuel types and property-specific payment structures for electricity, heating, cooling, and hot water. The end product ultimately is a detailed view of priority properties based on their costs/unit/year or their energy consumed/unit/year. Priority categories include water, electric baseload (the minimum electric consumption every month), electric heating, electric cooling, fossil fuel baseload, and fossil fuel heating. By separating energy use into these categories, it is easier to see where the property’s energy use is considered average or above average or needs investigation and intervention.
POAH has been prioritizing energy efficient and water efficient upgrades since 2016 by running a bi-annual priority list and then systematically determining causes and remediating poorly performing equipment, controls, and operation. In most of the states where we own or operate properties, we have the ability to leverage programs that provide financial incentives and technical resources for energy efficiency to achieve carbon reduction goals and manage demands on utility infrastructure.
The same tools that help us prioritize energy projects, make POAH a desired partner for incentive programs and for vendors looking to scope projects to review effectiveness of installed equipment. Furthermore, having a team dedicated to mine energy data, track project successes and failures and prioritize properties (according to which we should investigate, manage and coordinate applications for improvements), enhances our ability to take advantage of offers. It also releases other staff on and off-site to work towards other mission goals. In 2019, POAH leveraged $3.3 million in incentive programs that prevented 1012 tons of CO2 from being emitted and will save an estimated $615,000 in annual energy costs. And POAH's direct investments saved 20 million gallons of water.
At the end of the day, if we aim to achieve our mission to preserve affordable housing and provide sustainable and healthy living for affordable populations, it is our responsibility to reduce operating expenses by focusing on energy efficiency, while providing building systems that provide comfortable, secure, and productive homes in which to live, grow, play.