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Seattle’s green jobs program grows by 25x since 2011

Seattle’s green jobs program grows by 25x since 2011
February 10, 2013 Dan Zasloff
Seattle skyline

Stimulus job growth in Seattle accompanies growth in program participation

A new independent evaluation report has been released for Community Power Works, one of the major energy efficiency programs funded by ARRA’s Better Buildings Neighborhood Program.

The Fall 2012 Progress Report, prepared by the Washington State University (WSU) Energy Program, details the rapid learning and adaptability demonstrated by Seattle’s Community Power Works to transform its program delivery model, increasing the number of participating homes by a factor of twelve from September 2011 to September 2012. Community Power Works reports that the program has doubled since and is now completing nearly 100 projects per month, a 25x increase since 2011.

As one of EnergySavvy’s early Optix Manage customers, EnergySavvy is thrilled to celebrate the success of Community Power Works. The WSU report highlights EnergySavvy’s role in the program: “The EnergySavvy platform provided comprehensive intake, project management services, data and real-time analytics services and was an integral part of program service and delivery.”

Beyond its partnership with EnergySavvy, Community Power Works made important adjustments to improve its home retrofit program over time, including simplifying incentives, streamlining program delivery and targeting homeowners with oil heated houses.

Simplifying incentives

The initial incentive structure, based on estimated carbon savings per project, was difficult for contractors to explain, for homeowners to understand and for program administrators to manage. In January 2012, the program redesigned their incentive to revolve around estimated energy saved rather than estimated carbon saved.

Figure 1. Original incentive with estimates for a sample project compared to the simplified current incentive

Note:  The sample Estimated Carbon Fund Payment in the original incentive structure (top) provides example savings only. The payment was calculated at $10 per ton of lifetime carbon reduction for a measure as modeled by a test-in audit. The complexity of the incentive calculation made it difficult for contractors to communicate a simple rebate structure when marketing the program.

Streamlining program delivery

The City of Seattle, Cascadia Consulting Group and EnergySavvy have worked to continuously improve customer management and program reporting, including significant process changes:

  1. Seamlessly transitioned from two different service models to a single, streamlined workflow
  2. Adapted customer management to track lagging customers in innovative ways, increasing program activity and throughput
  3. Integrated Optix API with a third-party system to allow automated data and document exchange

Targeting homeowners with oil heated homes for weatherization improvements

One in seven single-family Seattle homes is heated with fuel oil. Community Power Works saw a huge carbon savings opportunity for the program by specifically targeting these homeowners.

Given the high cost of fuel oil and the lack of utility incentives to support energy efficiency upgrades, Community Power Works decided to match regional electric and gas utility rebates for insulation and weatherization, offer up to an additional $1,200 rebate for switching from oil heat to a high-efficiency electric or gas system, and provide a $500 rebate to pay for oil tank decommissioning. This promotion was announced through a direct mail campaign in February 2012. As of November 2012, 60% of homes in the pipeline had oil heat, up from just 21% prior to the oil heating campaign.

Figure 2. Direct mail letter from the City of Seattle office of Sustainability & Environment with best practices highlighted

Click thumbnail to read letter with best practices highlighted.

To learn more about Seattle’s Community Power Works and its achievements over the past year, read the full Fall 2012 Progress Report.