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How the Recovery Act and Community Organizing Are Saving the Residents of San Mateo County Major Cash

May 25, 2011 - 9:44am

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Steve, a resident of Hillsborough, learned about his home's energy use by receiving a comprehensive home energy assessment.

Obtaining a home energy upgrade is increasingly affordable in California, thanks to an array of financial incentives and rebates. In fact, residents in the County of San Mateo can take advantage of up to $4,000 per household, made available through the California Energy Commission’s Department of Energy’s State Energy ProgramThe County of San Mateo has also used nearly $110,000 from their Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant to get the word out about these rebates through local governments and non-profits. These partners are then educating and engaging specific populations at the local level, a strategy known as community-based social marketing.

“Using our grant funds from the Department of Energy to work with community partners in a collaborative manner has allowed us to be very innovative with how we’re marketing the programs,” said Jessica Stanfill, Energy Upgrade Program Manager at the County of San Mateo. “I think it’s really about thinking outside the box and making that personal connection.”

With this and other outreach strategies coordinated by the Energy Upgrade San Mateo Program, the county expects to upgrade 750 homes, create 150 new jobs, and reduce home energy use by an estimated 35 billion BTU's.

“I’ve been studying how to get people to participate for several years. Every study, every webinar I’ve watched points to the community-based social marketing principles,” said Brandi de Garmeaux, Sustainability and Resource Efficiency Coordinator of Portola Valley. De Garmeaux oversees Portola Valley’s subgrant from the County of San Mateo, designed to carry out these principles. In doing so, Portola Valley is coordinating events at newly upgraded homes in the area, where interested neighbors can discuss the retrofit process with homeowners.

An environmental non-profit, Acterra, trains volunteers to go door-to-door in San Mateo’s neighborhoods and inform local residents about opportunities for energy efficiency savings. Other subgrantees conduct similar strategies, all with the intent of effectively engaging the community.

Part of any residential upgrade outreach strategy includes pointing residents toward the new Energy Upgrade California website. Funded by the Department of Energy’s State Energy Program, this is a one-stop shop helping residents to navigate the array of rebates, incentives and qualified contractors available for home energy improvements by county level.

"San Mateo County residents will benefit in many ways from our Energy Upgrade program by lowering their energy bills, creating more comfortable, healthy homes and contributing to the reduction our countywide carbon footprint,” said Peggy Jensen, Deputy County Manager. “Energy Upgrade is a win-win program for our business community, our residents and the environment."

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