Should listings on the off-campus housing registry be required to provide an energy efficiency score or combined heating/electrical total  ̶ informing students about that unit’s weatherization and heating costs?

The Heating Cost Initiative was proposed for the ballot by Neil Baunsgard, Matt Moroney and Wil Wrede, with the support of many others. We emailed Baunsgard to ask some questions about the measure.

What led you to put this on the ballot?

It all started this winter when Western’s Students for Renewable Energy hosted an energy efficiency panel discussion. The panelists and the participants all shared a common frustration with the discrepancy between landlords and tenants when it came to energy efficiency. The landlords have no incentive to make energy efficiency upgrades and weatherproofing because they don›t pay the utility bill, and they are not accountable for their inefficiencies. This prompted us to try to find a solution to keep college students from having to pay exorbitant heating bills without knowing how much it costs.

Why should students support this?

Currently Puget Sound Energy will not tell you how much the bills are at a possible rental location. This leaves students to gamble with their finances because they don’t know how much it is going to cost to live somewhere. This bill would give students the information to be able to know the true costs of living in a rental unit. This will reduce our community’s environmental impact and save everyone’s pocketbook.

What methods do you propose should be used to determine energy efficiency scores or overall heating and electrical costs? How effective are those methods?

The most basic and no-cost option is just for the landlord to sum a 12-month period of utility bills and give a monthly average. This will give students a ballpark of what current residents are paying, however this is highly dependent on usage and can be inaccurate. For example, two units both have the same average bill. One unit is so poorly insulated that the residents can’t afford to keep it warmer than 40 degrees. They have the same bill as a well-insulated unit that keeps their house at a modest 65 degrees. If they were to opt for an energy efficiency audit they can contact the community energy challenge to get an accurate audit that will point out places they can save and hook you up with someone to do the work. If you want to be proactive and learn how to approach a landlord about efficiency, go to http://www.communityenergychallenge.org/ for more information.

If the initiative passes, will it need funding to implement? If so, how much do you plan on needing and where will you seek it from?

This will have no additional cost to students or the institution; it will only be giving more information to the students. If landlords choose to do an energy efficiency audit, this cost will end up in huge savings for the future residents.

You can learn more about the off-campus housing registry by visiting www.vu.wwu.edu/off-campus.php.