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Camden, New Jersey

Camden POWER – A Better Buildings Initiative

Location: Camden, New Jersey
Seed Funding: $5 million
Target Building Types: Residential and commercial

Camden, New Jersey, Has the POWER to Save Energy and Support Jobs in the Garden State

Camden, New Jersey, located just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, has a long history of its economy being tied with manufacturing and industry. In tougher economic times, however, Camden's fortunes have not been as bright; in 2006, 52% of Camden's residents lived in poverty—one of the highest rates in the nation.

With $5 million in seed funding from U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, however, Camden POWER (Program Offering Widespread Energy Recovery), a collaborative effort between local and state partners, is hoping to turn the tide and bring energy savings to the city. Designed as a self-sustaining, neighborhood approach to bringing long-term energy and financial savings to the community, Camden POWER will deliver energy efficiency upgrades to low-income urban centers, where buildings will benefit most from improvements. Local business owners will receive financial incentives for energy efficiency upgrades, and Camden residents will have access to upgrades that can save them a minimum of 25% on energy costs, as well as life safety improvements.

Financing: Extreme Neighborhood Makeover
Driving Demand: Breaking Down Barriers by Knocking on Doors and Supporting Applicants
Workforce Development: Saving Energy Is Good for Business

Extreme Neighborhood Makeover

One of Camden POWER's goals is to create a replicable model of whole-neighborhood renovations in low-income communities. The program is offering incentives to both residential and commercial customers. In using the whole-neighborhood approach and including health and safety and facade repairs along with energy efficiency upgrades, POWER has the potential to dramatically improve quality of life for some of the city's low-income residents, increase property values, support jobs, and help stabilize at-risk neighborhoods.

Eligible Camden City homeowners will have access to a combination of forgivable loans and Home Performance with ENERGY STAR rebates to complete up to $18,600 in repairs. As long as residents live in their homes for 5 years after receiving the loans, they do not have to pay any of the money back. Here's how it works: A portion of the loan amount is "forgiven" every year until the lien is satisfied. To be eligible, among other requirements, the resident must have owned and lived in the home for at least one year; meet certain income requirements; and achieve 25% energy savings after repairs. Additionally, under the POWER program, homeowners can get certain life safety repairs, including gas shut-off valves, moisture prevention, stabilization of loose railings and steps, smoke detectors, and other repairs to remove existing code violations.

Breaking Down Barriers by Knocking on Doors and Supporting Applicants

To overcome the barriers that have thwarted some other citywide efforts in the past, the POWER program is employing a more hands-on approach.

Many of Camden's residents lack the awareness, time, education, matching funds, or acceptable credit for financing. POWER uses door-to-door canvassing and outreach efforts via neighborhood organizations and local churches to help educate residents about the program and the incentives and benefits it offers to overcome those barriers. POWER also distributed program materials in Spanish to help increase the awareness and knowledge among the population of non-native English speakers.

Program administrators help residents fill out applications, while Camden POWER program managers and their support agencies help coordinate energy assessments, work schedules, bid processing, application submissions, and closings, in addition to managing and monitoring the rehabilitation process on behalf of applicants.

Saving Energy Is Good for Business

Camden POWER also has a commercial side that offers a combination of low-interest loans and direct grants subsidized under the Clean Energy Direct Install Program. Local businesses, commercial property owners, and nonprofit organizations can use these loans and grants to make energy efficiency improvements and upgrades. The program helps connect eligible business and commercial property owners with incentives and financing that will lower the capital costs of improvements to help them reduce energy and save on utility costs. All business and commercial properties located within the city are eligible to participate in the Camden POWER program and qualify for incentives.

Eligible business and commercial program participants receive a free energy assessment. Afterwards, the program helps them develop a scope of work and project budget. Qualified business owners could be eligible for up to $50,000 in energy efficiency upgrade incentives from New Jersey's Clean Energy Direct Install Program, up to $25,000 in facade improvements from the Camden Urban Enterprise Zone, and low-interest commercial loans from New Jersey Community Capital.


Stanley Witkowski

U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program