In this issue:


A Letter to our HPwES Stakeholders

Here in D.C., the political environment is never far from our minds. It is hard to get away from –no matter what topic is up for debate. In recent years, it has been challenging to make substantial progress legislatively on a variety of clean energy initiatives.  And unfortunately, we have not seen significant federal legislation that advances residential energy efficiency. This means we must rely on and arm states to make significant progress to expand residential energy efficiency.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) 2014 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard indicates that some states like Massachusetts, California, New York, and Washington are doing quite a bit to advance energy efficiency and home performance.  Recent discussions within the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR community reveal that even some states, that one may not expect – like Arkansas, Louisiana, and Alaska – are putting policies and regulations in place that support innovation and growth of home performance. Others, however, like Arizona and Florida, are putting policy hurdles in place that slow the growth of energy efficiency.  And in some states, like Oregon and South Carolina, HPwES program budgets are being reduced or suspended due to difficulties meeting cost-effectiveness tests.

While DOE cannot lobby on a program's behalf, we can provide facts, data, and case studies that support an argument for expansion of home performance programs and the integration of home performance with other residential program offerings.   Our home performance community looks to organizations like the Home Performance Coalition, the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), and the regional energy efficiency organizations like the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP), Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA), Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) to aggressively support the growth of energy efficiency, including home performance. In addition, we encourage Program Administrators and their stakeholders to learn from each other. In this e-newsletter, we highlight several resources and stories that could help you evolve and improve your residential program.

If you work in or participate in a program that is challenged by unfavorable policies or regulatory constraints, seek out guidance from programs, contractors, and states that have overcome similar challenges. Connect and network with others at upcoming home performance events. Talk to the HPwES Team and your DOE and EPA contacts. If you don’t know where to start, email homeperformance@energystar.gov.

Lastly, perhaps the best way to succeed is to try things that you've never done before.  As Steve Jobs, an extraordinary business leader, said, “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.” Experiment with different partnerships, diversify incentive structures, and try alternative marking strategies.  But make sure you maintain the integrity of your program and business by paying attention to quality; it is the most important aspect of your offering and your credibility will improve or diminish depending on how much you focus on quality. 

As always, DOE and the HPwES Team appreciate the efforts you and your partners make to further the home performance market.  We look forward your continued success in 2015!

Happy New Year!

Ely Jacobsohn
U.S. Department of Energy
Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program Manager

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Preparing for v1.5 Compliance

The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Sponsor Guide and Reference Manual (v1.5) was released in March 2014.  The Sponsor Guide v1.5 outlines the minimum requirements for sponsoring a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program.  In early January, the HPwES Team will post an v1.5 FAQ document to further assist Sponsors in understanding the minimum requirements.

Sponsors are required to be in compliance with v1.5 by March 31, 2015. DOE will be gaging compliance via select questions in the 2014 Annual Report Data Call. Sponsors can expect to receive the 2014 Annual Report D C the first week of January and will be due back on February 13, 2015. 

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Coming in 2015 - HPXML – Providing Clarity in for Home Performance Data

Effective communication takes place when the intended message is properly interpreted by the recipient.  In the home performance world, the HPXML (home performance extensible markup language) data standard was developed by the Building Performance Institute (BPI) so that communication among contractors, programs, and other stakeholders can be effective and streamlined.  BPI 2100, the standard for data transfer, and BPI 2200, the standard for data collection, are the HPXML data standards that enable the hardware and software that contractors and energy programs use to talk to each other. 

The Department of Energy (DOE) is very supportive of the HPXML effort because of the potential to reduce the burden of reporting on HPwES Sponsors and their constituents.  To that end, DOE commissioned an HPXML implementation guide to assist Sponsors in adopting the data standard with lessons learned during the standard development pilots.  This implementation guide (expected in early 2015) consists of two parts – one directed at program administrators and one geared toward software vendors and designers.  The HPwES Team encourages Program Sponsors and partnering organizations to use these resources to design HPXML implementation plans that may improve the flow and transfer of home performance related data among systems and platforms.

HPXML Program Administrator Implementation Guide:  Energy program administrators may have a variety of different goals for their data acquisition and storage systems. This implementation guide outlines the different elements a program should consider when developing their HPXML-based system. The guide has segmented the implementation factors into seven steps:

  1. Set clear implementation goals
  2. Coordinate with trade allies including software providers
  3. Identify data needs
  4. Procure program management systems or modify existing systems
  5. Design data validation process
  6. Implement testing protocols
  7. Implement a quality management plan for the data collection process

HPXML Software Developer Guide: This section describes to software programmers how the data is to be organized, the schema, and defines the data fields.  The Software Developer Guide describes the necessary technical details of how HPXML should be effectively integrated into relevant types of software and data systems - including energy modeling and CRM software - for the home performance industry use case. 

The HPwES Team encourages adoption of BPI 2100 and 2200, facilitated by use of the forthcoming HPXML Implementation Guide. Adoption of HPXML can provide program administrators and the home performance industry the means to effectively grow their efficiency efforts while ultimately minimizing administrative hurdles and costs.  Look for the HPXML Implementation Guide on energystar.gov in 2015!

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Now Available: Better Building Residential Program Solution Center

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) new website, the Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center, is now live. The site features strategies that residential programs have adopted to deliver energy savings and create jobs, including lessons learned and publications from Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Sponsors. The Solution Center is a one-stop shop for residential energy efficiency program administrators and home performance professionals.

The Solution Center is organized into a series of handbooks with step-by-step guidance for planning, operating, and evaluating a residential energy efficiency program. Each contains resources such as tools, calculators, publications, videos, presentations, and case studies. Solution Center users can find information on: business models, program designs, marketing and outreach, financing, contractor engagement, workforce development, and evaluation and data collection.

Visitors to the site can find materials like a presentation on New Jersey Clean Energy’s approach to contractor engagement, tips for leveraging financial sector marketing channels, and NYSERDA’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Contractor Manual.

The Department invites users to explore the Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center and suggest additional content for possible inclusion by emailing BBRPSolutionCenter@ee.doe.gov. Based on feedback from users, the Department will routinely make updates to the content and enhance users’ experience.

To learn more, visit energy.gov/rpsc or read the DOE progress alert.

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A New Trend?  Quarter 3 Home Performance Project Counts Go Up

For the first time in 4 years, summer and home performance play nicely together!  Since 2011, the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (HPwES) Program has experienced a drop in completed projects in the 3rd quarter of the calendar year. But 2014 Q3 was different, with 48 HPwES active Sponsors completing more than 22,000 projects, that’s about 1,000 projects more than last quarter.

A 3rd quarter project drop relative to the 2nd quarter can seem logical; explained by vacationing homeowners,  mild weather, or delayed contractor reporting.  But 2014 was different. NOAA's National Climatic Data Center officially recorded the summer of 2014 as the hottest in more than 130 years. A more likely explanation, though, is that our 2014 3rd quarter growth is due to the successful innovative work by our HPwES Sponsors, implementation staff, and contractors.
 
Notable Sponsors highlights from the 2014 3rd quarter reports include:

  • A massive increase in project counts for one of the newer HPwES programs: SWEPCO in Fayetteville, AR.  SWEPCO’s project count for 2014 grew over 50 times compared to the first three quarters of 2013; SWEPCO surpassed 800 projects in the 3rd quarter.
  • Substantial growth for the Illinois Home Performance program: a 140% increase compared to this time last year, reaching over 2,600 projects so far this year
  • Continued strong production by high volume Sponsors: the Massachusetts utilities, including National Grid, NSTAR Electric and Gas, and Berkshire Gas; the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund; and NYSERDA. These Sponsors demonstrated superior growth ranging between 55% and 35% in the 3rd quarter relative to the same time last year. Cumulatively, these Sponsors completed more than 12,000 projects in Q3 alone.

As of the third quarter of 2014, the HPwES Sponsors completed more than 65,000 projects. With the hope that the growth trend continues through the fourth quarter, we should be well on our way to meet the 90,000 mark by the end of 2014.

To learn more about HPwES national, regional, and historical data check the project dashboards page here

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Stakeholder Spotlight

Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program Continues to Drive Results

Focus on Energy has made great headway in advancing energy efficiency in Wisconsin due in no small part to their Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (HPwES) program.  Since 2007, Focus on Energy completed over 16,000 projects and they are considered to be a high volume Sponsor, surpassing the high-volume threshold of 1,500 projects with a reported project count of more than 1,800. This year Wisconsin rose up 6 places on the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) 2014 State Scorecard making it one of the year’s most improved states.  Production of HPwES projects reached a program high in 2013 with nearly 650 completed projects in the 3rd quarter of 2013; and based on 2014 3rd quarter reports, Focus on Energy is on track to exceed last year’s production.

In 2012, after running the HPwES program as a consultant model, Focus on Energy shifted to a Trade Ally (contractor) approach enabling contractors to do both the assessment and the improvements. This helped to increase the conversion rate from around 40% to over 80% in just two years.  Additional results from Focus on Energy’s HPwES program include:

  • 2014 is on track for reaching over 2,500 completed projects and delivering over $2.5 million this in residential incentives.
  • Average energy savings per project increased 36 percent for kWh and 14 percent for Therms in 2013.
  • Project duration from assessment to project submission decreased from 180 days to an average of 32 days.
  • Seven Focus on Energy Home Performance with ENERGY STAR  Trade Allies earned the prestigious 2013 Century Club Award for completing over 100 projects and it is projected to increase to nine in 2014. One of the HPwES Trade Allies has received the Century Club award every year with the program.
  • Two of Focus on Energy’s Trade Allies, Quality Insulation Installers and Insulation Technologies,received DOE’s Housing Innovation Award (the former in 2014 and the later in 2013).

Focus on Energy is committed to energy efficiency and market transformation. “We believe that by providing a simple, cohesive, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program to the homeowner is the most effective way to impact energy conservation. By increasing customer conversion, we are impacting energy consumption for the better.” said Tamara Sondgeroth, Focus on Energy’s Director of Operations.

LEAP Enables Offset of Carbon Footprint
Congratulations to LEAP who launched its “Save a Ton” program earlier this month. LEAP said it “completed a rigorous process to verify the reduction of 996 tons of greenhouse gas emissions achieved through energy efficiency upgrades.” The reductions were quantified as carbon credits through the Verified Carbon Standard and can now be sold to companies and individuals wishing to offset their carbon footprint. Click here for more information.

Efficiency Vermont utilizes project data to calculate the value of incentives
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Using data collected from Home Performance with ENERGY STAR projects across the state, Efficiency Vermont investigated the influence incentives (as a percentage of project costs) had on completion rates in a study published last summer. The study was developed as an attempt to answer fundamental questions about the program and to uncover lessons learned. Vermont administrators frequently heard questions from stakeholders about balancing the desire to maintain a market-based structure with the need to increase the number of completed projects, the factors that can motivate a homeowner to complete a project, and how these factors impact the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program.

The report found conclusively that incentives are the most important factor to homeowners when they decide to follow through on a project. To understand just how important incentives are Efficiency Vermont conducted a regression analysis. By running the percentage of project costs paid in incentives against completion rates readers can determine what impact increasing the median incentive would have on the amount of projects completed. The orange dot on the graph represents Efficiency Vermont’s current median incentive level and completion rate. 21% of project costs are covered by incentives and 65% of projects are completed. Readers can predict what effect different levels of competition rates with the green regression line on the graph.

According to this analysis, Efficiency Vermont would need to offer incentives covering about 65% of project costs in order to reach a 100% project completion rate. It is clear from Efficiency Vermont’s analysis that any increase in incentives would increase the number of projects completed. This type of regression analysis can be useful to programs looking to understand the impact incentives have on their program. The methodology is outlined in the report and is replicable if programs have collected similar data.

The report also carefully considers the impact state-wide marketing campaigns have on the number of projects that are completed in the state. Efficiency Vermont suspended and restarted its marketing campaigns; providing the opportunity for researchers to review a natural case study. Read the report for more information on the striking difference in consumer interest before and during marketing campaigns.

The complete report, including methodology, can be found on Efficiency Vermont’s website.

Scaling Up:  How Arkansas’ Southwestern Electric Power Company’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program is Turning it On.

Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) launched its Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (HPwES) Program in mid-2012 with only two projects completed that year. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter of 2013 when the program started to see changes in participation. There were over 200 projects completed in those three months, and that trend continued into 2014. By mid-year, the program budget was fully subscribed and the year ended with approximately 1,000 projects completed and over 4,600 measures installed.

So what made it all click? Program training and mentoring played a key role in success. The program added an experienced home performance contractor to the implementation team to work closely with contractors, fostering a learning environment to develop and maintain best practices. Field mentoring is supplemented by quarterly trainings on home performance topics, like duct sealing and infrared camera techniques. Program contractors also take advantage of a scholarship program to train employees and purchase auditing equipment, allowing contractors to expand their operations.

Program outreach is another important factor in increasing program participation. The SWEPCO HPwES team pitched customers to develop a base of work for new contractors.  Housing authorities and property management groups enrolled large-scale projects creating long-term work opportunities. Another strategic outreach component is inter-utility coordination efforts with the local gas utility program to increase public awareness; both organizations were able to maximize marketing efforts to those customers served by both utilities.
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In addition to training and outreach, there are a few other components which help to increase participation. A simple rebate structure and streamlined paperwork makes the program easy to understand from both the contractor and homeowner perspective. The SWEPCO program also works with the contractors on large-scale projects to develop data collection best practices, easing the paperwork burden.  

Like any good system (or team), the right parts and pieces must be brought together for the system to work and be successful. In the case of the SWEPCO HPwES program, the right combination of quality contractors, program design, and contractor support created an environment for the program to grow and be successful. 

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Contractor Tips: Partner with other companies to generate leads and increase community presence

Home performance contractors interested in expanding services or expanding their pool of customers should consider business partnerships. This is according to a presentation by Richard Burbank of Evergreen Home Performance. Burbank shared these insights during a seminar on strategies to position your company for success put on by Efficiency First. Burbank went on to explain that business partnerships are formal arraignments with other companies designed to cross-promote services. Participants in a partnership can share customer leads, promote each other’s services to clients, or whatever collaboration would be helpful to the companies.

Individual contracting companies can evaluate what kinds of businesses would make useful partners. HVAC technicians, roofers, and remodelers could be helpful depending on what kind of projects sell well in your area. Realtors can also be helpful partners since they often work with new homeowners looking to do extensive work on their new homes.

Consider new partners carefully and thoughtfully:

  • Articulate how the partnership will be valuable to both companies because all parties expect any new relationships to add value to their business.
  • Research and get to know your partner targets

Taking these steps is important, especially important to contractors who would like to restructure their business to thrive without incentives, according to Burbank. Working with other organizations to generate leads could prove valuable in supporting project counts. Partnering businesses can also share marketing resources. Exposure and name generation will always serve contractors well. Companies conducting long-term strategy planning should consider what kind of value a business partnership could bring them.

Efficiency First members can see the presentation by logging into their account.

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The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Team
www.energystar.gov/hpwes
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