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Remarks During the U.S. Delegation's Outreach Briefing on Scaling Up and Replicating Energy Solutions

Dr. Darlene F. Williams, Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research, Department of Housing and Urban Development
Remarks to the 15th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development
New York City
May 1, 2007

Thank you for your welcome. It is an honor and a privilege for me to represent Secretary Alphonso Jackson and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on this important panel. On behalf of the Secretary, Deputy Secretary Roy Bernardi, the senior leadership and staff of the Department, I bring greetings to the members of the panel and those of you who represent civil society and private sector organizations.

Why is HUD concerned about energy costs? Residential homes account for about 21% of U.S. energy use and cause about 17% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

There is a strong relationship between housing affordability and utility costs. The burden of high-energy costs is especially hard on low- and moderate-income families.

The average American family spends more than $1,600 per year on utilities.

American families spend more than half a trillion dollars, or $518 billion a year, on energy. Of that, we spend $161 billion on heating, lighting, and cooling our homes.

In the winter following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, households paid an average $257 more to heat their homes than the previous year.

The Partnership aims to reduce energy consumption in existing homes by 10% by 2015. Meeting this goal would save $20 billion a year in utility costs, increase home affordability and comfort, reduce demand for natural gas by nearly 1% of total U.S. energy demand and avoid greenhouse gas emission equivalent to those from over 25 million vehicles.

Let me explain HUD's jurisdiction a bit for those who are not familiar with us. There are some 1.3 million households living in public housing units in the United States, managed by about 3,200 Public Housing Authorities. Public housing is limited to low-income persons. The Department administers federal aid to these housing authorities.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spends more than 4 billion dollars - more than 10 percent of its budget - in the form of utility allowances to renters, projects, and public housing.

Public housing authorities spend about $1.4 billion each year for their utilities (including water), so more than 25 percent of HUD's public housing Operating fund goes for energy and utilities.

Trends over the past five years have not been encouraging. Average winter heating costs for natural gas users have risen by 115 percent over the past five years, while heating oil costs have gone up by 135 percent.

The Department has developed an Energy Strategy which identifies actions HUD is taking to promote energy efficiency throughout our housing programs. Five years ago, as the sharply rising cost trend began, HUD adopted an Energy Action Plan. Our Energy Action Plan's goal is to provide information, incentives, and technical assistance to our customers and partners so they can make informed decisions to reduce energy costs in their buildings. The Energy Action Plan is available at www.hud.gov/energy.

A Department-wide Energy Task Force is responsible for implementing that plan, of which my own Office, Policy Development and Research, co-leads with the Office of Community Planning and Development. Some of the Department's efforts include:

  • Providing priority rating points for energy efficiency in HUD's annual competitive grant awards;
  • Streamlining energy performance contracting in public housing;
  • Providing successful training for multifamily building managers on energy-efficient maintenance and operating practices;
  • Strong regional efforts include the hosting of conferences and workshops for our partners;
  • Partnering with the home building industry, conducts research and features innovative designs that will reduce energy consumption through its PATH program, the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing.
HUD's Energy Strategy has five major objectives:
    1. To strengthen partnerships with federal agencies and local communities to promote Energy Star label products, appliances, and new homes;
    2. To strengthen incentives and enforce legal requirements for energy efficiency;
    3. To provide training, technical assistance, and information to homeowners, renters, and property owners.
    4. To establish measures to track progress in reducing energy consumption and to ensure accountability; and
    5. To support further policy analysis, research, and technology development.

Let me share with you a few exciting examples of "clean energy" projects supported by HUD:
  • Plaza Apartments in San Francisco, California, is a nine-story building providing 106 housing units to low-income and formerly homeless persons. It was designed to exceed California's already strict Title 24 energy requirements by 18 percent, and includes: window design to minimize heat gain; energy efficient light fixtures; Energy Star rated appliances; highly efficient space heating; and a 26-kilowatt photovoltaic system to provide 10 to 15 percent of common electric loads.
  • Another is the new Maverick Landing public housing project in Boston, Massachusetts, which includes a 116-unit building with efficient lighting, appliances, and certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating System, a national green building guideline. The project also has a 37-kilowatt solar array and a 75-kilowatt gas-fired cogeneration system to provide a significant share of the electricity supply, as well as a solar hot water system. This may truly be the new face of public housing in the United States.

Energy price and supply shocks are beyond HUD's jurisdiction. Within our programs, however, we are making energy efficiency a priority issue. HUD has followed the excellent road map laid out in President Bush's National Energy Policy, calling for increased energy efficiency and conservation in homes and especially for increasing the voluntary use of Energy Star-label products and homes.

HUD has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency in carrying out its activities. Together these combined efforts will save taxpayers money while they conserve energy reserves and protect the global environment.

There is much more information on HUD's energy efficiency initiatives at: www.hud.gov/energy, particularly for our Energy Action Plan brochure and also our 2006 Report to Congress on promoting energy efficiency at HUD in a time of change; the latter report is also available at www.huduser.org, click on Publications. What HUD is endeavoring to accomplish - through its processes, procedures and partnerships - can be replicated in other countries.

It is a great honor to be here and to contribute, as part of a greater body, to the work of the Commission. Thank you for affording our delegation this opportunity.



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