By Robert Walton |
Energy media’s in a tizzy over a study of a Michigan weatherization program, but the researchers say the real takeaway is less dire
In case you missed it, the case for energy efficiency died last week.
Actually, it didn’t — but if you looked at some headlines around the country you might have thought it had. A study assessing low-income weatherization in Michigan found the program was not cost effective and returned fewer energy savings than anticipated, and the resulting coverage put efficiency advocates on the defensive.
A headline from Forbes: “Is Uncle Sam Baking The Books On Energy Efficiency?”
The Wall Street Journal: “Energy-Efficiency Programs ‘Nudge’ Consumers in the Wrong Direction”
The Washington Post: “Study raises doubts about whether improving your home to save energy is worth its cost”
The research, led by UC Berkely and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, examined the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) operating in Michigan, where residents are given about $5,000 in weatherization upgrades. Those can include furnace replacement, new insulation and weather stripping, but the results of the study surprised many: While the upgrades did reduce energy consumption by 10% to 20% each month, the lifetime savings amounted to only about $2,400 – roughly half the cost of the upgrades.