These days, as the summers get hotter, the storms get bigger, and climate change is finding its way into more headlines than ever before, more attention is being paid to the environment and how the average citizen can do his or her part to support it. As a result, boards and managers are finding themselves introducing new rules, regulations, and technologies into co-ops, condos and HOAs to improve comfort for residents and work in tandem with statewide efforts to be better stewards of our resources and climate.
Concern for the environment and energy usage continues to grow, but so do energy prices—and that can make discussions of energy “savings” complicated. Among the steps that associations are taking in the energy arena are bulk purchasing and long-range contracts that help level the energy costs, while giving energy companies a longer-term look at supply and demand. But looking ahead can be difficult for boards.
“A property I have just came off a three-year lock-in contract at 7½ cents per kilowatt hour,” says Stephen DiNocco, president of Affinity Realty & Management in Boston. “The current rate available for a lock-in is 10½ cents; that’s about a 50 percent increase.” An easy sell? Maybe—because electric rates fluctuate from season to season, and the current “summer” rate is only 8 to 9 cents per kWh. So a board looking at the current rates and comparing them to the proposed lock-in rate might not see the advantage. At the same time, DiNocco notes, last winter, rates bounced around the 13 to 18-cent range, and in January, some went as high as 20 cents per kWh. “You over-pay in the warm months and under-pay in the colder months, and hopefully that works out for you,” he says. As they ponder the volatile costs of electricity, gas and other utilities, boards are likely to start looking at ways to cut back on usage.
The financial realities tend to be the ones that get boards to sit up and take notice of conservation opportunities. DiNocco and other managers, including David J. Levy of Sterling Services in Holliston, Massachusetts, say the first step for associations who are thinking about their energy costs is to tackle the conservation side—making those conversations a “win-win” for budgets and the environment.
“We’ve used the Mass Save programs that provide everything from light bulbs to insulation,” Levy says. “We’ve had thousands of lights replaced for free over the years; and had insulation put into attics for free or at very big discounts. We insulated our electric outlets and did toilet retrofits.”