March 19, 2018 by Grace Mwaura
A government program in New Zealand demonstrates how health, economic vitality, and climate protection can all be enhanced via investments in energy efficiency.
What would it look like if, in the middle of an economic crisis, your government invested in a program aimed at keeping vulnerable households warm? What if this action reduced incidences of asthma, colds, bronchitis, and winter mortality, while improving energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions, and creating new jobs?
In our new report, Multisolving at the Intersection of Health and Climate: Lessons From Success Stories, we analyze how the simple act of home insulation in New Zealand attracted government funding and benefitted 20% of households nationwide. The program inspired collaboration within government agencies and stakeholders such as heating and insulation companies, banks, private philanthropists, and universities.
In 2009, during the global financial crisis and cuts in public spending, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) designed the Warm Up New Zealand program to improve household energy efficiency while creating jobs in heating and insulation. To justify the expenditure, results were evaluated by a consortium made up of the Ministry of Economic Development, universities, and consulting firms. Results showed a significant reduction in mortality, especially for those over 65 years old with respiratory issues, and that insulation improvements were more effective than heating. These findings were particularly important as fuel poverty affects about 25% of households, and one in six New Zealand adults and one in four children experience asthma symptoms. As a result, the program’s second phase targeted low-income households with respiratory illnesses. In 2016, the program received its third budget allocation to further insulate homes of low-income earners with health concerns.
A major investment of the program was in demonstrating how each stakeholder would benefit from collaboration. EECA sub-contracted private heating and insulation companies, who received incentives for offering subsidized services to households all over the country. Co-financing ensured that the program reached more beneficiaries, with charitable organizations providing grants to low-income households. The program also found ways to make repayment easy for beneficiaries, such as allowing homeowners to pay off their insulation investment through their mortgages.
A national awareness campaign on home insulation and heating reached 69% of New Zealanders and helped change people’s attitudes towards energy efficiency. The government is benefitting from the creation of new jobs, new public health research, increased energy efficiency, and reduced carbon emissions. Citizens are benefitting from better health, warmer and more comfortable homes, efficient heating and insulation technologies, reduced health expenditures, and lower electricity bills.
A significant policy change requires new insulation in all New Zealand rentals starting in July 2019. Further, EECA has embarked on regulating energy efficiency standards, which would help inform other programs for home insulation and heating beyond New Zealand.
Warm Up New Zealand’s FLOWER diagram (left) thus comprises the health and well-being petal, jobs and assets petal, connections petal, energy and mobility petal, and resilience petal. For similar case studies, read our new report here.
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