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Rapid Deployment of Energy Upgrades Through a Community-Scale Approach: Leveraging Partnerships to Achieve Equitable Clean Energy Goals

This paper was presented at the 2022 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. View the accompanying presentation here

State and local governments are key partners in advancing equitable clean energy and environmental justice. In this paper, Elevate, NREL, the City of Chicago, and the U.S. Department of Energy will present a city-scale analysis of energy efficiency potential from whole-home retrofits, including a roadmap for equitable climate action in Chicago.

Using NREL’s ResStock model and local housing characteristics data, we analyzed baseline housing characteristics and energy usage patterns for the City’s entire stock of single-family and low-rise multifamily buildings. We then modeled multiple retrofit scenarios to develop cost-effective deep retrofits (with 50% or greater energy savings) that are technically achievable through the installation of heat pumps, air sealing and insulation, and other off-the-shelf technologies. Furthermore, electrification combined with energy efficiency can produce substantial cost savings in low-income communities.

These findings are especially significant given Chicago’s cold climate and high heating needs, suggesting that under the right conditions heat pumps could reduce energy burden rather than exacerbating it. Additionally, we will demonstrate the local application of NREL tools, discuss how this partnership advances equity by merging the various strengths of project partners, and highlight the benefits and opportunities for federal government and the national laboratory system to collaborate with community partners. This collaboration is a successful example of how partnerships can lay the groundwork to support community, state and national energy equity goals, including the Justice40 initiative, through rapid, equitable deployment of clean energy for the communities and households that need it most.

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