A New Employee Benefit: Energy Efficiency Programs

Guest post by Amanda Sear, Research Assistant, Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative

As the temperature starts rising outside, energy bills can trend skyward as well. In the summer and winter, insufficient insulation and poor weatherization can make houses leak cool and warm air almost as quickly as it is generated. While many people are aware that home energy efficiency improvements can lower utility bills, investments in energy efficiency retrofits are not every homeowner’s priority.

In the interest of encouraging its employees to invest in energy efficiency projects, in 2012, Duke University began a five-year effort to identify the barriers that prevent homeowners from retrofitting their homes and determine the best strategies to overcome them. This culminated in an energy efficiency pilot program aimed to help Duke employees complete energy efficiency home retrofits and track reductions in energy use and carbon emissions. The Environmental Finance Center at UNC provided financial advisory and program management support for this pilot program and collaborated with DCOI on the final evaluation of the program.

The full report, which evaluates the results of Duke’s pilot program and makes recommendations for Duke and other employers implementing employee-based energy efficiency programs, can be found here.

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Constructed Wetlands for Wastewater Treatment: A 20-year Success Story in Walnut Cove, NC

by Caitlin Seyfried, Trey Talley, Evan Kirk, and Noel Myers 

One hot summer morning, a crew of staff members from the Environmental Finance Center set out on a field trip. We hopped in a School of Government van and eagerly started discussing our destination. As environmentally- and financially-minded individuals, we are interested in water and wastewater services, so it comes as no surprise that we were excited to be visiting a wastewater treatment plant.

However, our destination was not—by any means—a traditional treatment plant. Instead, we went to visit a facility with an innovative, cost-effective, and rather unique approach to handling wastewater: the Walnut Cove wastewater treatment plant.

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Four Factors that Allow One Utility to Provide Financial Assistance to People Who Don’t Even Have a Water Account

When setting rates, most water and wastewater utilities are concerned (at least to some extent) about whether their customers can afford the resulting bills. Many utilities are also wondering how they can assist the poorest segments of their customer base with the cost of water/wastewater service. However, a frustrating problem is that a lot of low income people live in multifamily housing, such as apartments, and do not actually have an account with the water utility. Even though they don’t receive a bill directly, these tenants are paying for the water/wastewater service indirectly via their rent. So some utility managers have been grappling with effective ways to provide assistance to these water users. Different theories involving vouchers etc. have been espoused, but one utility seems to have actually solved the problem.

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Important Water Impact Fee Development in North Carolina: To be or not to be, that is the question…

“To be or not to be?” This is the famous question that haunted Shakespeare’s Hamlet as he struggled with his existence. It is now also the question that may be haunting some municipal water managers throughout North Carolina after a recent North Carolina Supreme Court decision involving water impact fees. The School of Government’s Local Government Finance Attorney Kara Millonzi recently wrote an excellent blog on the case that explains the legal background and repercussions. Read it!

At the heart of the issue is the phrase “to be” that is found in the enabling statutes that authorize water fees for some types of utilities in North Carolina (Water and Sewer Authorities, County Water Districts). These words are not found in the almost identical statutes that authorize fees for other public water utilities (Counties, and Cities):

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10 Statistically-Proven Tips for Getting Higher Water Rates Approved (Based on a Survey of >1,000 Utilities)

What should a utility manager do in order to convince a board or council of elected officials of the need to raise water rates? We identified 10 actionable tips based on statistical analysis of survey results of more than 1,400 local governments across the United States that were successful in raising water rates.

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