US partnership for net zero energy retrofits multifamily home sector

08 May 2019

The US Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission partner on RMI’s REALIZE initiative to make better-performing, safer and more comfortable homes for millions of families.

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) announced a national partnership with the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) to catalyze the development of a speedy and scalable process for zero-carbon retrofits in the multifamily home sector through its REALIZE initiative.

Pilot projects in California, Minnesota and Massachusetts

Supported by a $500,000 DOE Building America award and $7.2 million CEC Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) grant, the three-year collaboration spans across California, Minnesota and Massachusetts to develop pilot projects—totaling approximately 500,000 square feet—in multifamily buildings to demonstrate an industrialized approach to conducting zero-emissions retrofits.In addition, RMI, DOE, CEC and other market facilitation actors, such as New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s RetrofitNY program, are working together to develop scaling mechanisms designed to mobilize and organize the supply chain and kickstart a market for integrated retrofit systems. Six pilots are slated for development in RetrofitNY’s program.

RMI is on a mission

America’s 125 million residential units account for approximately 20 percent of the country’s total carbon emissions, but only roughly 12,500 of these units (0.01 percent) are operating at net zero energy, according to the Net Zero Energy Coalition’s 2017 inventory. Progress continues to be hindered in large part by the disaggregation of both supply and demand―today, every retrofit is a custom job, involving significant time, complexity and cost.

At the same time, nearly 50 million Americans are living at or below the federal poverty line, with many struggling to pay for their utilities versus other basic needs. While low-income families stand to benefit the most from high-performing buildings, they also face the greatest barriers in accessing them, spending up to 20 percent of their income on energy, compared to just 4 percent for the average US household.

“RMI is on a mission to industrialize and scale zero-emissions retrofits by overcoming barriers and closing gaps in the marketplace,” said RMI Managing Director Jamie Mandel. “Inherent in our goal is a need to ensure that a significant portion of the economic activity benefits low- to moderate-income and minority communities.”

Inspired by Energiesprong

REALIZE is combining demand aggregation and supply chain coordination to deploy high-quality, prefabricated mass-scale retrofit packages that are easy to install and are financed through utility cost savings. The approach was inspired by Energiesprong. REALIZE is working with its partners to adapt the Energiesprong approach to the US market. Energiesprong is an official strategic partner on both the DOE and CEC efforts.

Read the press release

For more information on REALIZE, visit

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