Leave No Money on the Table
So, you have a $6 million budget to weatherize some houses. The rule we work under is that no money is left on the table. I challenge anyone to say they do that better than we do.
Four dollars and fifty-seven cents.
That’s how close the FirstEnergy agencies came to nailing it. At least it was $4.57 OVER the budget. A great way to end the program year. OPAE began managing Community Connections in 2004, but versions of the program date back to the 1980s when Centerior was recovering the cost overruns during the construction of Davis Besse and Perry, the two nuclear powerplants now the subject of bailout legislation. In those old cases, industrial customers got special contracts and agencies got funds to weatherize houses. Over the years funding steadily increased to the annual $6 million available today.
FirstEnergy recently filed the annual evaluations for all their EE programs in mid-May. The review found we helped 4,323 families save money so they can eat, pay bills, and purchase the medicine they need. The energy savings are solid as well; the program saved over 7.2 million kWh in 2018. That’s an average of 1,675 kWh per year; roughly
two months’ worth of electric bills — $200+.
More than Just a Baseload Program
At the beginning, Community Connections was primarily a baseload program – lights, refrigerators, exhaust fans, maybe water heaters. Now the program is beginning to broaden out to serve more multifamily buildings and provide comprehensive weatherization to all-electric homes. It is important that the program evolve. Community Connections long relied on lighting for around 45% of savings, but new standards have dropped that to around 25%. New federal lighting standards will significantly reduce lighting opportunities; only specialty bulbs will be eligible. Refrigerators account for an increased amount of savings, but as refrigerators break down and are replaced it leaves fewer opportunities for savings.
Many multifamily buildings are all-electric, presenting HVAC and water heating options, along with air sealing. Many buildings still have electric baseboard heating which offers tremendous opportunities. Likewise, buildings with P-Tacs can get Energy Star replacements. OPAE will be working with agencies, soliciting recommendations on how to most effectively serve multifamily units, and how to do deeper weatherization, something more than the standard baseload.
Community Connections shows that we can see what perfect could be, though we’re not there yet. Expanding the universe of clients we serve will sustain the program and help ensure affordable housing, something in short supply, is there for our clients.