RePower Bainbridge and RePower Bremerton
Location: The cities of Bainbridge Island and Bremerton, Washington
Seed Funding: $4.9 million
Target Building Type: Residential and commercial (Bainbridge Island only)
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- Twitter: @RePowerBI
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- Residential Energy Champions
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- Facebook: RePower Bremerton
- Twitter: @RePowerBremertn
- Residential Energy Champions
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RePower: Energy-Efficiency Success Through Community Engagement and Outreach April 2012
Using Community-Based Social Marketing to Drive Demand for Energy Efficiency May 20, 2011
Bainbridge Island and Bremerton RePower Their Community and Workforce
On Bainbridge Island, Washington, the average home's energy use is higher than the average customer in Puget Sound Energy's (PSE) entire service area. This fact, coupled with an increasing demand for energy, left Bainbridge Island residents with an interesting choice to make: build a new substation on the island or increase the energy efficiency of their homes. The community's values and commitment to the environment—as well as associated financial savings—made energy efficiency the easy choice. However, local workforce development was needed due to a limited number of qualified energy efficiency professionals in Kitsap County, Washington, and on the island in particular. To help meet these needs, the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Neighborhood Program awarded $4.9 million in seed funding for the development of RePower, a community-wide initiative which serves the cities of Bainbridge Island and Bremerton, Washington.
Operated by Conservation Services Group (CSG), RePower aims to reduce energy use on the island by 15% in three years, through a combination of free home energy check-ups, free PSE HomePrint Assessments, Environmental Performance Score (EPS) assessments, and energy efficiency improvements to residences and businesses. By combining activities in a high-income submarket of metropolitan Seattle (Bainbridge) and a lower-income area (Bremerton), RePower bridges two communities and expands the energy efficiency market in the region. RePower also leverages its Better Buildings funding to provide financing opportunities for energy efficiency improvements and create new jobs for contractors.
Background: Putting the Power in Residents' Hands
Program Design: Assessing the Situation
Driving Demand: Energy Dashboards Raise Awareness
Workforce Development: Creating a Qualified Energy Workforce
Financing: Scoring Financial Incentives
Putting the Power in Residents' Hands
When Bainbridge Island's energy use peaked above a 58 megawatt threshold three times in winter 2009, PSE—the electricity provider on the island—said it would need to install a fourth substation to meet growing demand. Island residents came together to learn more about their energy use and develop a plan to ensure a sustainable energy future.
RePower Bainbridge offers opportunities to improve the island's overall energy use and reduce utility costs for individuals and businesses. To achieve a reduction in energy use, RePower Bainbridge targeted older homes for energy assessments and improvements. More than 50% of Bainbridge Island's approximately 8,000 single-family homes were built before 1980, and of these, only about 20% are properly insulated. As a result, the average Bainbridge Island home uses 60% more energy than other residences served by PSE.
In Bremerton, approximately 57% of housing was built before 1960, well before state-mandated energy-efficient housing codes were implemented. Although Bremerton homes built during the 1990s may be more energy-efficient than older homes in the community, many still present opportunities for homeowners to improve their health, comfort, and safety while reducing energy use and costs. These inefficiencies create a significant opportunity for the average homeowner to achieve energy and dollar savings.
Assessing the Situation
RePower Bainbridge offers homeowners two options to evaluate and improve their homes' energy performance based on what works for their needs and budget: a free home energy check-up or a home energy assessment with EPS. RePower Bremerton offers homeowners a free HomePrint Assessment™ provided by an independent PSE-qualified specialist, as well as a home energy assessment with EPS.
During home energy check-ups and HomePrint™ Assessments, a RePower energy advisor visits a home to visually identify areas of energy loss such as insulation, gaps, cracks, and inefficient equipment. Homeowners receive a list of custom recommendations, which includes information on no-cost and low-cost upgrades and long-term energy-saving solutions. The energy advisor also provides free compact fluorescent light bulbs and up to two high-performance showerheads during the home energy check-up.
A home energy assessment with EPS provides an in-depth evaluation using advanced building science tools to show how a home's systems—from heating and cooling to insulation and windows—work together to impact the overall efficiency. Homeowners receive an EPS, which documents the home's current energy use and carbon footprint, and details energy upgrade recommendations and options. The report also includes expected monetary and energy savings potential and payback periods.
Energy Dashboards Raise Awareness
RePower Bainbridge works with local residents to find creative ways to increase energy awareness and deliver the energy efficiency message. Partnering with Positive Energy, a local nonprofit, RePower Bainbridge developed an innovative Island Energy Dashboard, which displays real-time energy use around the island. These dashboards are featured in local businesses and on commuter ferries to and from Seattle and other neighboring cities. RePower also worked with PSE to distribute OPower Home Energy Reports, which show how a homeowner's energy use compares to 100 of his or her neighbors.
Taking energy awareness further into the social media arena, RePower partnered with MyEnergy.com, allowing users to earn retailer discounts for reduced energy use, create groups, compare their energy use to friends and homes nearby, and create common goals for their energy groups to achieve.
Creating a Qualified Energy Workforce
According to a local survey, 55% of Bainbridge Island residents are willing to increase their energy efficiency to protect the environment. Although the community does not need to be sold on the benefits and value of saving energy, access to properly qualified workers was scarce.
To foster local energy efficiency jobs, a local RePower Trade Ally Network was created for Kitsap County contractors to become energy experts. RePower has also teamed with Olympic Community College in Bremerton to train additional energy advisors and weatherization professionals. To increase the quality of work, RePower requires contractors to complete a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Lead-Safe Certification Program and be Building Performance Institute (BPI)-certified.
Scoring Financial Incentives
RePower offers homeowners and businesses in Bainbridge, Bremerton, and overall Kitsap County the opportunity to make energy efficiency improvements by providing loan financing, RePower incentives, and rebates from PSE and Cascade Natural Gas Corporation. The City of Bainbridge Island and Kitsap Credit Union partnered to create an Energy Efficiency Loan Program, which offers customers low-interest loans for energy efficiency improvements. Homeowners who complete a home energy assessment with EPS are eligible for a limited-time $450 instant rebate from Kitsap County. In addition, they are eligible for a $450 Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® rebate from PSE when they complete two energy efficiency improvements—prioritized by an energy advisor.
RePower also offers $400 RePower Rewards for customers who complete two or more of the priority recommendations received during their energy assessment. Since its launch in 2011, 295 RePower Rewards have been redeemed on Bainbridge Island and 16 have been redeemed in Bremerton.
To qualify for incentives, rebates, and RePower Rewards, Bainbridge Island, and Bremerton homes must be primarily heated with electricity (for PSE rebates) or with oil or propane (for RePower cash-back incentives). Bremerton homes primarily heated with natural gas are eligible for Cascade Natural Gas Corporation rebates. In 2011, tax credits also helped offset the out-of-pocket expense of energy efficiency improvements.
206-866-0650 ext. 10212
U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program