The implementation of new, effective energy efficiency programs does not require state policymakers to re-invent the wheel. The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program (HPwES) presents an established system of comprehensive home assessment and energy services currently utilized by 22 states. The program fosters local economic growth and provides typical energy savings of around 20 percent or more for consumers. Sponsored nationally by the U.S. EPA, the program provides technical resources and tools to state-level sponsors, which include state energy offices, utility public benefit funds, and nonprofit organizations. State-level sponsors are financially responsible for their programs and oversee the implementation of energy services by third-party contractors. HPwES promotes a comprehensive “house-as-a-system” approach, which increases energy savings and comfort by implementing a range of complementary energy efficiency measures at once.
Establishing a HPwES program necessitates a proper program design and implementation plan to ensure home energy services are available, affordable, and effective. Prior to designing a program, however, it is imperative to conduct an evaluation of local market conditions to gauge energy costs, population and housing stock demographics, and the local home energy services sector. Once completed, a market study can help inform decisions on consumer incentive levels, media plans, and contractor recruitment.
One of the most common challenges for sponsors is how to recruit from a limited supply of home performance contractors. A key strategy to overcome this barrier is to create a network of qualified professionals and incent participation with technical training, financial assistance for diagnostic equipment, and certification from the Building Performance Institute (BPI) or a similar organization. Offering incentives to contractors for completed comprehensive retrofits also facilitates participation and retention of quality contractors.
Another major component of the program design process involves consumer financing and incentives. While homes that undergo a HPwES retrofit typically improve energy usage by more than 20%, the upfront cost of over $5,000 drives many homeowners to forgo these services. Sponsors can offer a range of incentives such as tax credits, subsidies and rebates, and low-interest loans to encourage participation from homeowners of all income brackets. ACEEE recommends providing incentives based on estimated energy savings achieved as a percentage of baseline home energy use, with at least 10% savings required to earn incentives and substantially higher incentives for savings over 20%. Stimulus funds can be used to fund these incentives. Implemented carefully and thoroughly, the HPwES program can provide states with a sustainable platform for consumer energy savings and economic development.
There is also a less comprehensive way to reduce residential energy use by focusing on retrofit measures that provide the “biggest bang for the buck” such as duct sealing and lighting. Connecticut has an excellent program: Home Energy Solutions.
Read about more exemplary residential retrofit programs: ACEEE’s Compendium of Champions