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Kansas City, Missouri

EnergyWorks KC

Kansas City, Missouri
Seed Funding:
$20 million
Target Building Type:
Residential, commercial, and industrial (primarily residential)
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Facebook: EnergyWorks KC
Twitter: @EnergyWorksKC
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Better Buildings Grantees: Green Zones
November 9, 2010

Kansas City, Missouri, Makes an Impact With Energy Efficiency

It may seem ambitious to concentrate on energy efficiency efforts in the most economically challenged areas, but that is just the strategy that Kansas City, Missouri, is hoping will make the most impact. In an area designated the "Green Impact Zone," for example, 20% of mortgages are delinquent, 50% of residents are unemployed, and the median income is $30,000. This 150-square block area of Kansas City and six additional neighborhoods were identified as targets that would benefit from energy efficiency improvements. EnergyWorks KC is championing energy efficiency upgrades in these communities to help stimulate the economy and meet local climate action plan goals (see box).

With $20 million in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, EnergyWorks KC is promoting and providing incentives for energy efficiency upgrades in residences and businesses. Although the program's initial focus is within Kansas City limits, it plans to expand to a metropolitan region covering two states, nine counties, and 120 municipalities.

Program Design: A Unique Approach to Financing Families' Needs
Driving Demand: Increasing Process Effectiveness and Providing Extra Value
Workforce Development: Transforming a Workforce for Long-Term Jobs and Efficiency
Financing: Addressing Policy to Foster Financing

A Unique Approach to Financing Families' Needs

For more than 30 years, Kansas City has been providing resources to low-income families to weatherize their homes. EnergyWorks KC seeks to bridge the gap between those who qualify for the city's existing low-income weatherization assistance program (LWAP) and those who have the credit to qualify for traditional loans to make improvements.

Climate Action Plan

In its climate action plan established in 2008, Kansas City set targets of avoiding 30% of its greenhouse gas emissions compared to a 2000 baseline by 2020 and 80% by 2050, with the goal of becoming a carbon neutral city.

"We are taking a triage approach," said Gerald Shechter, sustainability coordinator for Kansas City. "We are increasing awareness about energy efficiency for those who qualify for traditional loans, providing more improvements for those who can participate in LWAP, and supporting those caught in the middle with additional rebates and incentives on energy check-ups and upgrades."

EnergyWorks KC is supplementing existing utility rebate programs to help residents and business owners get the most for their energy efficiency investment. For example, the energy check-up costs about $600; existing rebates provide up to $400, and EnergyWorks KC covers as much as $200. For low income households, the program can pay 100% of the cost of the analysis. In addition to an existing $1,200 rebate from utilities for upgrades, EnergyWorks KC provides up to 25-30% of the remaining cost of the project for upgrades that are designed to achieve at least 15% energy savings. What's more, the program is matching water efficiency rebates offered by the municipal water provider, because using less water also results in energy savings.

Increasing Process Effectiveness and Providing Extra Value

Coordinating with Kansas City Power and Light's (KCPL) Smart Grid project and other trusted community-based organizations, EnergyWorks KC staff and volunteers are going door-to-door to visit targeted areas with efficiency information. To ensure the process goes smoothly, EnergyWorks KC partnered with the Metropolitan Energy Center to set up a customer-friendly, one-stop-shop for home and business owners to receive information and assistance to complete improvements. To keep the process moving as efficiently as possible, an energy advisor makes sure that, from initial check-up through financing to actual upgrades, decisions are made within 24 to 48 hours. Once upgrades are made, EnergyWorks KC recognizes homes and buildings by putting up yard signs and installing placards about the buildings' significant energy savings.

Transforming a Workforce for Long-Term Jobs and Efficiency

EnergyWorks KC is creating new job opportunities where they are needed most by increasing demand for upgrades and training a workforce to adequately meet that demand.

Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) provides Building Performance Institute (BPI) certification training to energy efficiency professionals. MEC dedicated one of its training sessions to a group of 11 minority and women-owned businesses. The City of Kansas City also provided training to approximately 45 energy efficiency contractors focused on marketing and sales to improve their business models.

In addition, with Johnson County Community College and KCPL, EnergyWorks KC is training local contractors on energy efficiency and more. EnergyWorks KC has initiated a deconstruction initiative for homes that are not good candidates for energy upgrades. The initiative provides reusable materials for other building upgrades, reduces waste going to landfills, and creates job opportunities. The program is being implemented in three phases. Phase 1, in which eight homes were deconstructed, is complete, and Phase 2 will focus on 20 to 25 homes in the Green Impact Zone. Phase 3 will focus on a large urban redevelopment area encompassing 60 buildings, approximately 20 of which will make room for a new Kansas City Police Patrol Division facility and crime laboratory. This redevelopment project will help support a significant number of jobs. EnergyWorks KC is working with Reuse America to train workers from these neighborhoods in the deconstruction process, which will help rehabilitate not only the neighborhood but its workforce.

EnergyWorks KC is also creating a "business incubator" that will showcase energy efficiency to the community and help fledgling businesses. This building, which will receive energy efficiency upgrades itself, will house 10 offices devoted to fostering growth for green start-ups. Demolition has been completed in the existing building and bids have been received to renovate the building, with completion expected by December 2012.

Addressing Policy to Foster Financing

In addition to rebates for energy check-ups and efficiency improvements from utilities, EnergyWorks KC established a loan loss reserve fund and a revolving loan fund, in combination with other financing incentives, to promote low-interest financing to address the real market barrier of capital availability. The program is using the same approach to help commercial property owners secure financing for upgrades.

Playing a crucial role in promoting public policy change to support additional financing tools for energy efficiency services, the Metropolitan Energy Retrofit Coalition is being established as part of the sub-recipient contract with the local metropolitan planning organization, the Mid-America Regional Council. EnergyWorks KC is also promoting the adoption of new energy codes by local governments and regulatory and policy changes at the state level to allow for upgrade costs to be billed on property taxes.


Dennis Murphey

U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program