Tina Larsson in Green Ideas on December 22, 2022
Electrification is a word co-op and condo boards are hearing a lot these days. It refers to switching from fossil fuel-powered boilers and appliances to electrically powered building infrastructure. As the electric grid becomes greener — that is, gets powered increasingly by renewable energy sources — electrification will reduce carbon emissions from buildings, the goal of the city’s Climate Mobilization Act. Here are three steps boards can take toward electrifying their buildings:
1. Collaborate. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 provides significant rebates and tax incentives for electrification. The money can pay for equipment, installation and needed electricity upgrades. Co-op and condo boards need to educate themselves on ways IRA funding can cut their building’s carbon emissions enough to reduce or eliminate fines under Local Law 97, which will be levied beginning in 2024.
Since sustainability is such a hot topic, finding volunteers among board members, shareholders and unit-owners should be easy. These volunteers can form a sustainability committee to research the IRA for available funding sources. A good source to get the committee started is the free guide to the IRA provided by the electrification nonprofit Rewiring America.
2. Negotiate. Are there any house rules or bylaws that prevent the electrification upgrades funded by the IRA? Most of the items covered are inside apartments and might not need board involvement. However, some governing documents do not allow for the installation of electric heat pumps, the replacement of windows, or even switching from gas to electric stoves. It might be necessary to make changes to the governing documents.
We recently had a co-op shareholder ask for our help because her board did not approve her request to install an electric stove. The co-op board’s reason was that the building did not have enough electric capacity for electric stoves. Since the IRA covers electric upgrades for multifamily buildings that meet certain thresholds, this might be a great opportunity for the board to increase the building’s electric capacity.
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Decide on whether the board should create a list of pre-approved products and installers. Such a list will make it easier for shareholders and unit-owners to make decisions, it will lighten the workload for the property manager and super, and it may result in a bulk discount.
3. Communicate. Have the sustainability committee write up its findings so that the board or property manager can easily communicate this information to residents. Spell out green initiatives repeatedly through newsletters, on the building’s online platform and at the upcoming holiday social. We recommend that the communication isn’t limited to the benefits for the environment but also includes how this will help minimize fines and potentially improve the building’s energy-efficiency letter grade, which will boost apartment values. Convey that the benefits will be shared equally by every shareholder or unit-owner.
The IRA is too good of an opportunity to pass up. Plan now so that your co-op or condo is at the starting line to make upgrades in 2023. The rebate programs are set up to last until Sept. 30, 2031. However, the money allocated to New York State could be used up long before then, so city co-op and condo boards need to make this a priority. Right now.
Tina Larsson is co-founder of The Folson Group, an energy-efficiency consultancy serving co-op and condo boards. She recently published the book Living the High Life: How Smart Co-op and Condo Owners Protect Themselves and Their Investment.
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