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The Rockefeller Foundation Supports New Initiative To Accelerate Clean Energy Upgrades for Affordable Housing in U.S.

WASHINGTON, DC | December 1, 2022 — The American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Elevate, Emerald Cities Collaborative, and HR&A Advisors announce the launch of a nationwide Residential Retrofits for Energy Equity (R2E2) program to develop energy-saving home retrofit strategies for communities often left out of climate investments. Funded by a $2.5 million grant from The Rockefeller Foundation, $250,000 each from JPMorgan Chase and the Wells Fargo Foundation, and additional support from The JPB Foundation, R2E2 will center on environmental justice and racial equity to address the compounding crises of housing affordability, energy insecurity, and climate change. The People’s Climate Innovation Center is also advising R2E2 on centering equity in the project and its outcomes and on facilitating community-driven planning processes.

Energy insecurity is particularly acute in Native American, Black, and Hispanic households, which pay an average of between 20% and 45% more of their incomes on energy bills than white households but are among the least likely to receive energy upgrades. In response, R2E2 will provide training to state, local, and tribal governments, as well as community-based organizations, to jumpstart energy upgrades for affordable housing that will lower utility bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve residents’ health, create good-paying local jobs, and help mitigate racial inequity.

“Right now, too many lower-income households, older adults, and communities of color face a disproportionately higher energy burden as a percentage of their income and receive energy sourced by burning traditional expensive heating fuels that contribute to the climate crisis,” said Elizabeth Yee, Executive Vice President of Programs at The Rockefeller Foundation. “As The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to make opportunity universal and sustainable, we are proud to support the Residential Retrofits for Energy Equity’s (R2E2) community-driven approach to unlock access to clean energy for more families across the United States, saving money, improving quality of life, and reducing emissions.”

R2E2 will focus on scaling up building energy retrofits and leveraging the unprecedented federal funding available from Covid-19 relief programs, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and other sources. It will also offer guidance on energy upgrade financing models, economic inclusion, navigating the complexities of the affordable housing sector, and engaging with community-based organizations to ensure proposals reflect community needs. In addition, R2E2 will encourage teams to prioritize authentic engagement with underserved communities, bolster community priorities and leaders, advance local workforce development, and target programs to those who have historically been excluded by past policies, such as BIPOC communities, renters, and marginalized groups.

“Too many households—especially families with lower incomes—live in poorly insulated and energy-inefficient homes, leaving them with high utility bills and uncomfortable or dangerous temperatures,” said Annika Brindel, ACEEE’s Director for Residential Retrofits for Energy Equity. “We are working with communities to craft a pathway to safer, more comfortable, and less expensive housing, while centering racial equity, community priorities, and local job creation.”

Henry Love, Elevate’s senior director of municipal and community programs, said: “Upgrading and decarbonizing homes makes them healthier, safer, and more resilient against a changing climate. Our approach supports communities as they develop strategies for upgrading their buildings and protecting their residents. R2E2 creates a one-stop shop for communities to get support as they create a strategy for upgrading their buildings. We’re taking a holistic approach to zero-carbon buildings in a way that benefits the communities that need it most.”

Meishka Mitchell, President and CEO of Emerald Cities Collaborative, said: “Our transition to an energy-efficient economy must include underinvested communities that have been most impacted by our history of environmental injustice. Emerald Cities Collaborative is pleased to lend its expertise in economic inclusion, workforce development, labor standards, and community benefit agreements to this valuable initiative.”

Jonathan Meyers, Partner at HR&A Advisors, said: “We are excited to work with this diverse team to support a national transition toward equitable decarbonization in low- and moderate-income housing. This challenge will require a holistic response, and we have high hopes that this initiative will help transform the way housing and energy experts partner with each other and communities to improve the lives and communities of all residents.”

Corrine Van Hook-Turner, Director of People’s Climate Innovation Center, said: “We are pleased to serve as the strategic advisor of R2E2, providing guidance and community-driven capacity building support to help strengthen and shape the delivery of key investments to frontline communities. In collaboration with project partners, we will continue advocating for and practicing structures and decision-making practices that are rooted in equity and justice to drive this important work.”

R2E2 will begin its training and technical assistance with an online summit on January 11 and 12, 2023. The summit will feature interactive, in-depth sessions on leveraging federal funding, community-driven planning, and the multiple benefits that residential retrofits can bring to communities. The summit is free and registration opens today. Community-based organizations are eligible to receive stipends for their participation. For more information, visit the R2E2 webpage here.


About the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a nonprofit research organization, develops policies to reduce energy waste and combat climate change. Its independent analysis advances investments, programs, and behaviors that use energy more effectively and help build an equitable clean energy future.

About Elevate

Elevate is a nonprofit organization that works nationally and is headquartered in Chicago. Elevate designs and implements programs to ensure that everyone has clean and affordable heat, power, and water in their homes and communities —no matter who they are or where they live.

About the Emerald Cities Collaborative

Emerald Cities Collaborative (ECC) is a national nonprofit network of organizations working together to advance a sustainable environment while creating sustainable, just and inclusive economies with opportunities for all — an approach we call “the high road.” ECC develops energy, green infrastructure and other sustainable development projects that not only contribute to the resilience of our metropolitan regions but also ensure an equity stake for low-income communities of color in the green economy. This includes developing the economic infrastructure for family-supporting wages and career paths for residents of such communities, as well as contracting opportunities for women, BIPOC and other disadvantaged businesses.

About HR&A Advisors, Inc.

HR&A Advisors, Inc. (HR&A) is an employee-owned company advising public, private, non-profit, and philanthropic clients on how to increase opportunity and advance quality of life in cities. We believe in creating vital places, building more equitable and resilient communities, and improving people’s lives.

About the People’s Climate Innovation Center

People’s Climate Innovation Center brings a whole systems approach to movement building, cultivating a strong culture of designing transformative solutions that restore and regenerate healthy earth systems and built environments for all. Our approach emphasizes the need for solutions that are community-driven, interconnected, and intervene at multiple levels.

About The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation is a pioneering philanthropy built on collaborative partnerships at the frontiers of science, technology, and innovation that enable individuals, families, and communities to flourish. We work to promote the well-being of humanity and make opportunity universal and sustainable. Our focus is on scaling renewable energy for all, stimulating economic mobility, and ensuring equitable access to health care and nutritious food. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at rockefellerfoundation.org and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.

Media Contact

Wyatt Goodwin
The Rockefeller Foundation
212 852 0000
wgoodwin@rockfound.org

Mark Rodeffer
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
202-507-4018
mrodeffer@aceee.org

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