Fixing the Home Energy Industry

RSS

Building the Green Economy

So I read this article and it made me want to scream.  Instead, here was my reply:

Ok, yes, I get it: ARRA gave us this huge influx of cash and now the cash is gone so jobs are disappearing. But if you were under the impression ARRA was a long term solution you were kidding yourself. Everyone knew this would happen: boom followed by bust. No surprises here. The name of the funding was “Stimulus” after all.

Take ARRA and its funding surge for what it was: a shot in the arm. I don’t know about your training programs, but mine trained a lot of out of work construction workers in Building Science. Are those folks working in weatherization right now? Of course not! There is no industry or market but we knew that. All the money went to training workers - not educating the public to drive demand.

"But George, these are real people we are laying off!" I get it. Trust me, I get it. I worked as a job developer for the last 5 years. I get it. But we have got to look long term! These construction workers, for the most part, are now back in the field building. Yay! And guess what? A big chunk of them understand building science enough now to bring that knowledge to bear on their current projects.

Start thinking long term! If you are like me (around 40-ish years old) we have been raised in a world where we got immediate results. Well, folks we are creating an industry here. That doesn’t happen overnight. But I am in it for the long haul and recognize that I may not even live to see our CO2 ppm get below 350. And that’s ok! We are laying groundwork here we probably won’t even get to see pay off in our life times. Get over it. Move on. Get back to work building the green economy.

So what’s the next move? Now that we have a workforce (for the most part) let’s drive demand. Let’s get out there talking to folks about the benefits of energy efficiency. Educate the public on options, advocate for the best interests of the client and the market will get on its feet.

Don’t be so discouraged or discouraging. Accept where we are and move on. This is bigger than you, me or the folks who got laid off. It sucks. I know. But why are you in this business? If it’s to make a buck you’re in the wrong business. If it’s to maintain the inhabitability of our planet for our species then you’re in the right business. And this is a long play. I mean a multi-generational play. Accept that and life gets easier.

Now let’s get back to work.

Building the Green Economy

The residential energy efficiency industry is facing interesting challenges. Here are the top three in my opinion:

1. Homeowners don’t know what residential energy efficiency is and, to be frank, they don’t really care. This lack of understanding means they aren’t buying these services.

2. Programs designed to encourage homeowners to purchase home energy retrofits and upgrades are rife with obstacles for the service providers. The results are limited, if any, profit margins.

3. The residential energy efficiency industry lacks nationally recognized standards. There is little to no consistency or consensus within our industry as to what to do or how to do it.

So what’s the solution? Here are my suggestions for each problem:

Problem #1:  Customers don’t know what energy efficiency is.  

Solutions:

  • Keep in mind this fact of business: success cures everything. We need to motivate home owners to make energy efficiency upgrades to their dwellings a priority. Customers don’t buy what they don’t understand. Our industry needs to educate and inform the general public on the benefits of residential energy efficiency upgrading. As an industry, we need to stop talking to our customers about building science. They don’t care. It only confuses them. Just tell them the benefits. A doctor doesn’t tell you how the pill he’s giving you works - he just prescribes it and tells you it will make you better. And that’s really all you care about, right?
  • As an industry, we need to agree on language and verbiage. Please stop using the word “audit.” No one on this planet has ever gotten excited about anything with the word “audit” in it.
  • We need an army of trainers and educators to go out an educate the public on a grassroots level on why they should invest their hard-earned dollars into upgrades to their homes.  This army can not be:  contractors (sorry - people won’t trust you because they will be too scared thinking you are trying to sell them something, which you will be) or utility employees (again, sorry - no one trusts you).  These educators need to be neutral unbiased 3rd parties (such as government or non-profit employees).  


Problem #2:  Programs designed to encourage homeowners to purchase home energy retrofits and upgrades are rife with obstacles for the service providers.

Solutions:

  • Stop making contractors do energy modeling. They’re contractors - they build stuff.  They are not software engineers - stop asking them to be something they’re not.  ”But George, how will we know how big of a rebate to give the customer?  We have to incentivize people to do more work to their home - deeper retrofit means bigger rebates!”  Ok, here’s an idea:  use actual energy use data to size rebates.  "But people want their rebate right now!  If we use energy data we have to wait like a whole year!"  Fine, give them half at the time of the retrofit and the other half after they have actually reduced their energy usage.  Float  the contractor their full payment at the time of install - and don’t try to tell me the utility companies don’t have the cash reserves to make that happen.
  • Get Building Inspectors and Permit offices on the same page as the contractors.  Make BPI training mandatory.

Problem #3:  The residential energy efficiency industry lacks nationally recognized standards.

Solutions: 

  • This is in the pipeline thanks to BPI and NREL.  We are getting there it’s just taking a minute.

Ok, so that’s all for now.  If you have thoughts, suggestions, gripes or comments, email George at GFKopf@gmail.com

Thanks for reading!