Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Elvis Clark: City's impending energy mandate duplicates other carbon reduction efforts already long in place

Milwaukie City Council at a July 16 meeting talked enthusiastically about mandating a home-energy audit whenever a home is listed for sale. This audit is said to have an out-of-pocket cost for the homeseller of between $150 and $250. In a seller's market, as experienced in recent years, it is the homebuyer who probably ultimately bears the cost of this home energy audit, as sellers recoup their costs in higher sales prices.

Elvis ClarkMilwaukie City Council talks seriously about imposing this new program on its residents because it is said to help reduce Milwaukie's greenhouse-gas emissions (CO2). But this program is an expensive way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The aggregate citywide cost to homebuyers/sellers of this new program mandate is likely approaching $225,000 per year; not counting the cost to the city of administering the program. The aggregate CO2 reductions per year are estimated to be 81 tons per year, as city staff estimate 20 percent of homes audited will do home energy-efficiency improvements, reducing CO2 emissions in the process.

According to Energy Trust of Oregon documents, the average life span of such home energy-efficiency improvements is about 16 years. So, dividing $225,000 by 81 and 16, the cost of the CO2 reductions per ton is nearly $175. By comparison, in a recent Oregon Public Utility Commission report, the NW Natural gas-utility company estimated it can procure CO2 reductions for a cost of $12 to $13 per ton. The costs of CO2 reductions in California's CO2 reduction market is similarly below $20 per ton.

So, Milwaukie's proposed involuntary home-energy audit is effectively more than eight to 10 times more expensive at reducing CO2 emissions as that of private businesses procuring CO2 reductions in existing markets.

There are significant other shortcomings to Milwaukie's impending energy mandate:

The program duplicates other carbon reduction efforts already long in place. Milwaukie residents, like many others in the state of Oregon, are already paying the Energy Trust of Oregon 3% on their electric and natural gas bills (the so-called Public Purpose Fee). The Energy Trust of Oregon also performs home-energy retrofits, home-appliance energy-efficiency improvements, low-income home-weatherization programs, rooftop solar-panel-installation assistance, and school energy-efficiency projects.

Oregon's governor and speaker of the Oregon House are working towards resubmitting legislation to sharply reduce CO2 emissions statewide, but city councils such as that of Milwaukie seem oblivious to the potential for regulatory and cost duplication.

Milwaukie city staff estimate higher house-sale prices for those doing the home-energy-audit improvements. But one should be skeptical of this estimate of house appreciation, as the estimated house appreciation significantly exceeds the cumulative energy savings on average.

City Council is planning to have the mandated home-energy-audit program on their agenda during an Aug. 13 study session. Study sessions are held at 5:15 p.m. in the Public Safety Building Community Room, 3200 S.E. Harrison St. Most are recorded but not broadcast live due to the simultaneous live streaming of the Planning Commission.

Elvis Clark is a resident of Milwaukie.

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