As consumer demand trends toward green and sustainable home features, Realtors® continue to work to promote environmentally responsible features and business practices. Sixty-one percent of Realtors® reported that consumers are interested in sustainability.
NATIONAL ASSOC. OF REALTORS -- The report, www. nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/realtors-and-sustainability, which stems from NAR’s Sustainability Program, surveyed Realtors® about sustainability issues in the residential and commercial real estate markets and the preferences they are seeing in consumers in their communities.
“Consumers continue to make it clear that environmentally friendly features and neighborhoods are an important factor in deciding where and what home to buy,” said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation Realtor® from Columbia, Missouri and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty. “Realtors® are leaders in the conversation about real estate sustainability, energy conservation and resource efficiency, and will continue to promote environmentally conscious strategies and best practices that benefit not just our clients, but also our communities.”
Seventy-one percent of agents and brokers reported that promoting energy efficiency in listings is either somewhat or very valuable. When asked what they consider to be the top market issues and considerations regarding sustainability, agents and brokers listed understanding lending options for energy upgrades or solar panels (36 percent), improving the energy efficiency of existing housing stock (34 percent) and the lack of information and materials provided to real estate professionals (30 percent).
The survey asked Realtors® how comfortable they are answering questions about home performance and efficiency; 39 percent said they are comfortable or extremely comfortable. Forty percent of respondents say they are confident or extremely confident in their ability to connect clients with green lenders.
To account for growing consumer interest, 40 percent of respondents reported that their Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, have green data fields, compared to only 15 percent that do not. Among those that do have green data fields, 37 percent of respondents use them to promote green features, 27 percent to promote energy information and 16 percent to promote green certifications.
A majority of respondents (80 percent) said that solar panels are available in their market, and 39 percent said that solar panels increased the perceived property value. Twenty-three percent of brokers indicated that tiny homes – homes that are 600 square feet or less – are available in their market.
The transportation and commuting features that Realtors® stated are very or somewhat important to their clients include easy access to highways (82 percent), short commute times and distance to work (81 percent) and walkability (51 percent).
For the first time questions about commercial real estate were included in the survey. Seventy percent of agents and brokers indicated that promoting energy efficiency in their commercial listings was very or somewhat valuable. The top building features that clients specified as very or somewhat important to their agents or brokers are utility/operation costs (80 percent), efficient use of lighting (64 percent) and indoor air quality (62 percent).
NAR initiated the Sustainability Program as a platform for dialogue on sustainability for Realtors®, brokers, allied trade associations, and consumers. The program’s efforts focus on coordination and articulation of NAR’s existing sustainability resources, while also supporting a growing area of interest for consumers, helping members to assist home buyers and sellers.
The REALTOR® Sustainability Program invited a sample of 112,220 active Realtors® to participate in an online survey pertaining to sustainability issues facing consumers and the industry, resulting in 6,834 usable responses. NAR plans to use this report to better benchmark Realtor® understanding of sustainability and create resources to help Realtors® better serve clients surrounding sustainability topics.
On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved the city’s commitment to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030, the Sierra Club has announced.
SOLAR INDUSTRY MAGAZINE -- According to the Sierra Club, Minneapolis now represents the largest city in the Midwest and the 65th city in the country to establish a goal of transitioning entirely to clean energy.
As part of the city’s commitment, the Minneapolis City Coordinator’s Office will prepare a blueprint by the first quarter of 2019 for how Minneapolis will meet its goal, including policy and technology strategies. The Sierra Club says the blueprint will also include strategies to “ensure that all consumers, especially those who have been left out of the benefits of energy programs in the past – communities of color; low-income communities; renters; and communities that have borne the brunt of past environmental racism – receive equitable benefit from this transition.”
According to a release from the city, municipal facilities and operations will transition to 100% renewable energy by 2022, and the city will transition by 2030. The city says it opposes the rollback of climate policy at the federal level and reaffirms its ongoing commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement.
In addition to the city’s commitment, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has joined the Sierra Club’s Mayors for 100% Clean Energy initiative, a growing coalition of nearly 200 mayors nationwide who have announced support for a goal of powering their communities with 100% renewable energy.
“One effective way to make sure that energy remains affordable and that the transition to clean energy meets the needs of those most marginalized and historically impacted by pollution is persistent and intentional community engagement from a wide range of people,” says Frey.
New York regulators green-light multiple initiatives to advance the state’s clean energy goals, while the governor doubles down on energy efficiency.
GREENTECH MEDIA -- Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new energy efficiency standards for New York on Friday, calling for investor-owned utilities to achieve annual efficiency savings equal to 3 percent of sales by 2025.
The new target would accelerate energy efficiency by more than 40 percent over current forecasts and reduce energy consumption by 185 trillion Btu. The state also committed $36.5 million to train more than 19,500 New Yorkers for clean energy jobs.
"Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way for New Yorkers to lower utility bills, curb harmful emissions and battle climate change," said Governor Cuomo, in a statement.
The energy efficiency plan should help the state achieve nearly one-third of its climate goal to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030.
New York’s Public Service Commission also approved a series of measures last week as part of the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. Now in its fourth year, REV is a sweeping overhaul of utility and energy regulations meant to enable more distributed energy on the grid.
One of the changes will allow distributed energy storage projects of up to 5 megawatts to connect to the grid, which the commission says will expand the integration of larger energy storage technologies.
“New York is sending strong signals to the storage industry to come to invest in New York, and those signals are coming in [the form of many] different changes, and this is one of them,” said Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.
Regulators also improved upon the application and contract process for Standardized Interconnection Requirements, which should help developers connect distributed generation projects to the distribution system more efficiently.
Another rule will make it easier for neighboring farms to form community distributed generation projects, including the use of anaerobic digesters to produce electricity. Previous rules required at least 10 farms to work together in order to start a project.
“Now you can have just two or three or four farms get together and do distributed wind, or digesters orsolar” said Reynolds. “I think it’s going to be interesting to see if now you can have small farm cooperatives — two neighboring dairy farms having a solar project together.”
Another measure approved last week will create a utility energy registry to give the public online access to customer-load data for the state’s major utilities. Starting in mid-2018, the project is intended to foster “increased awareness of energy use patterns” and promote conservation. Officials included a new privacy standard for data collected from apartment buildings as well.
The commission also approved a request from New York State Electric and Gas to implement time-based rates for a smart energy community project in the Ithaca area. On a pilot basis, about 12,000 customers with advanced metering infrastructure will be charged at least 2.5 times more for energy consumed during peak hours. Regulators said the change should send “a clear price signal to customers…to manage their energy usage.”
Earlier this month, Cuomo announced that up to $15 million would be available for projects that help advance and improve the resiliency of the electric grid, as part of an effort to lower energy costs and combat climate change. The state has already awarded $9.6 million through 22 contracts solicited in 2016 that focus on smart grid technologies.
In January Cuomo unveiled a series of clean energy proposals, including a pledge to deploy 1,500 megawatts of energy storage by 2025 as the state works toward 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. The target came just a month after he signed a bill to create a storage deployment program.
The 1,500-megawatt goal comes with $200 million in funding from NYSERDA's Green Bank and another $60 million from NYSERDA's Clean Energy Fund. But so far, REV hasn't produced final tariffs to compensate storage for the locational value it provides to the grid.
Despite ongoing efforts to boost clean energy and efficiency in the state, many critics say New York should be doing more. More than 1,500 activists descended on the state capitol on Monday to blast Cuomo for not doing more to combat climate change. One of the protestors was actor and gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who announced a platform calling for 100 percent renewable energy last week.
Reynolds says the enthusiasm of climate activists in New York has pushed Cuomo to move forward on clean energy initiatives in recent years.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of implementation," she said. "But the goals are really strong, and this latest energy efficiency announcement was the missing piece in getting us toward those goals.”
Expect to see a lot more solar rooftops in Florida. Click here to see how much money you can save by going solar.
BLOOMBERG -- The Sunshine State is removing what solar installer Sunrun Inc. has seen as a roadblock to consumer panel leasing, an arrangement that drove a boom in rooftop power systems elsewhere in the U.S. A ruling by Florida regulators on Friday will allow Sunrun, the largest U.S. residential-solar company, to expand in the state, the company said.
Utilities are the only entities that can legally sell electricity in Florida. Sunrun requested a clarification to that policy, and the Florida Public Service Commission ruled that the company’s 20-year solar-equipment leases don’t constitute a retail sale of electricity.
The commission said Friday that Sunrun didn’t require its approval before starting to lease panels. Julie Brown, a member of the agency, went as far as to tell the company during a hearing that it didn’t need to seek action. But the company said that households in Florida were unable to lease solar until Friday’s decision.
“The commission’s vote to grant our petition is a critical step toward broadening access to solar energy for Floridian households,” Anne Hoskins, chief policy officer for Sunrun, said in an emailed statement.
Leases let consumers get rooftop panels with little or no upfront costs. Absent leasing, homeowners have to pay for the systems themselves or finance them -- a barrier that has helped utilities like NextEra Energy Inc.’s Florida Power & Light Co. fend off a wave of residential solar. NextEra declined to comment.
While Florida doesn’t have clean-energy targets, it ranks third in the U.S. in terms of potential rooftop solar and 12th in installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“Florida was already going to be a growth market,” Hugh Bromley, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in an interview. “This could supercharge that.”
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