Here is a program that will hopefully create jobs throughout Oregon as well as provide an affordable option for homeowners to make energy efficiency upgrades to their existing homes. I’ll post more information as CEWO starts to roll out in the spring of 2011.
Clean Energy Works expands into 2011
by Lee van der Voo
Sustainable Business Oregon
Seventeen Oregon communities will launch an energy efficiency program in 2011 as part of an expansion of a successful Portland pilot that garnered $20 million in federal stimulus funds in April.
Clean Energy Works Portland has helped 356 homeowners finance and install energy efficiency upgrades such as insulation and low-energy appliances since summer 2009. It tacks the cost of the upgrades onto participants’ utility bills.
Though created as part of Portland’s Climate Action Plan with Multnomah County — aimed at lowering energy use to reduce carbon emissions — the program also had the benefit of creating jobs. Contractors pre-approved to receive work through the Portland pilot reported 23 hires, and 285 employees and subcontractors received related paychecks.
Based on early success, Clean Energy Works Portland received a $20 million bump from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in April. The money came from a $452 million pot aimed at creating 30,000 construction jobs nationally by shifting workers in one of the hardest hit industries in the nation — construction — into energy efficiency work.
The city has since granted $18 million of those funds to the newly formed nonprofit Clean Energy Works Oregon. (The City of Portland kept $2 million to administer the grant and Portland-related aspects of the program.) Beginning in 2011, Clean Energy Works will expand the program across the state with the dual purpose of lowering energy demands and galvanizing a budding energy efficiency industry.
Portland will continue to participate in the program as it expands, and in 2011 will be joined under the Clean Energy Works Oregon umbrella by partner programs in Hillsboro, Gresham, Lake Oswego and Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. Outside the Portland Metro area, Hood River, Astoria, Klamath Falls, Eugene, Corvallis, Salem, Bend and Pendleton are also participating, along with Lane, Deschutes, Klamath and Coos counties and the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.
“If you look at a map we’re covering most of the state in year one,” said Derek Smith, CEO of Clean Energy Works Oregon, who created the program as a policy adviser for Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
“The larger picture here is that we’re trying to catalyze the energy efficiency industry in the state by attracting investment and generating demand at levels that are unprecedented,” he said.
Ben Nelson, an organizer with the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which has four locals in Oregon, said the jobs creation is welcome, particularly at a time when unemployment hovers at 30 percent in the construction industry.
“We’re hopeful that our participation, along with a number of other partners, helps create, not just jobs, but high quality jobs that spread the wealth of a growing green economy through the whole community,” he said.
So far, much of the program’s expansion is being driven by government agencies interested in revitalizing the local construction industry. Communities involved in the 2011 scale-up have already met certain readiness standards, including providing staff to oversee customer relations, outreach, quality control and utility engagement. They are expected to begin launching programs in March 2011, with full engagement across the state planned by the end of the third quarter.
Over three years, the entire program will be tasked with retrofitting 6,000 homes and small businesses and stimulating $100 million in economic activity.
Smith believes Clean Energy Works Oregon can exceed those goals, set by the U.S. Department of Energy. To do it, program managers are using a variety of tools, including everything from pressing governments to invest in energy efficiency and workforce training to persuading utilities to participate, private investors to back loans, and foundation money to broaden its reach to areas like affordable housing or job creation.
“Each local community has set goals in terms of the number of units they want to retrofit in their community. What we’re doing is we’re lining up loan capital,” said Smith.
He said banks are increasingly responsive – they are ready to begin lending, sufficiently capitalized and getting shareholder pressure to put money on the streets. Clean Energy Works Oregon is also offering credit enhancements to sweeten the pot. They say they want a self-sustaining business model that still exists when stimulus money dries up.