Tragic Housefire Exposes Key Issues for Clean Energy Partnership to Address

Saving energy in homes and buildings is too often merely the cute little endeavor that everyone agrees with and smiles at for a second. Not responding to energy efficiency as an actual priority can be deadly, as we have seen in the lives of 3 young children aged 1, 6, and 7 from the same family being lost in a tragic house fire.  

  A household of renters in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in North Minneapolis made an ill-fated attempt to heat their living area because their landlord who lives miles away in Shakopee and hadn't gotten around to turning on the natural gas heat yet. Evidence points toward the fire starting near the stove while the oven was running while open.  

 

 If the family was already too cold to sleep or be comfortable when the outside temperature was as far above freezing as the upper 40’s, then this property must not have been in compliance with Minneapolis energy conservation ordinances for single family rental homes. How could this property's energy leaks have escaped city inspections? This right here is what could happen when landlords are not required to perform energy audits or when the results of energy audits are kept secret from tenants. This is what could happen when the next landlord refuses to reinvest surplus rent money into making the property energy efficient enough for a mother with children to be able to sleep on nights that are not even close to the coldest we will face.

While many landlords are conscientious about energy and responsive to concerns, other landlords have been so punitive as to evict tenants who complain about their unresponsiveness. 

I had personal experience on a retreat in early spring that gave me a taste of how maddening and near impossible it is to sleep when the air is cold enough to see your breath. I can understand why someone would take the measure of warming their house with the oven.

 The Clean Energy Partnership is not just another nice program to adore and smile at and not be involved with. It is time to start viewing energy waste concerns on the level of survival instincts and the Clean Energy Partnership as a mechanism to solve some of these split incentives and dilemmas that lead to energy waste. This tragic story shows the work we have cut out for us in the partnership starting with these 2 key questions.

*Can we ask the City for housing inspectors to actually be conscientious of energy conservation standards like they are with so many other much more minor and less consequential details?

*Can we ask the utilities or CEE to make energy audit services accessible to tenants so that they could landlords accountable if they are being negligent? 

Instead of wasting away our precious public dollars on subsidies and tax breaks for big oil, coal, and gas, how about investing our money on insulating/ weatherizing homes to save money, our climate, and people’s lives?

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