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Washington – SEP

RePower Kitsap

Location: Kitsap County, Washington
Seed Funding: $2.6 million
Target Building Type: Residential – single-family, detached buildings with less than four units each
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Overview of RePower Kitsap April 2012

Collaboration and Coordination Bring Energy Efficiency to Washington's Kitsap County

Kitsap County, Washington, residents are discovering the comfort and cost savings associated with increased energy efficiency. At the same time, they are helping the state establish an enduring energy upgrade business model within the community. With $2.6 million in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, Washington state is developing a residential energy efficiency project targeted at Kitsap County—a community of approximately 100,000 households a ferry ride across Puget Sound from Seattle. RePower Kitsap kicked off in summer 2011 and will reach full-scale operation in 2013.

RePower Kitsap is the product of a partnership between the state's Department of Commerce Energy Office and Washington State University's Extension Energy Program. Together, these agencies have designed and implemented a program to build an energy retrofit business community within Kitsap County. It aims to increase the demand for energy retrofit services through outreach to homeowners and real estate professionals and to strengthen the retrofit business community through contractor assistance, installer and auditor training, and easier financing.

Program Design: Getting in Good With the Neighbors
Program Design: A Focus on Air Sealing
Driving Demand: Energy Performance Scores Provide Market Information

Getting in Good With the Neighbors

RePower Kitsap is the second Better Buildings project in Kitsap County; RePower Bainbridge is a Better Buildings program in Bainbridge, Washington, operated by Conservation Services Group, in partnership with local governments. The projects share branding, a call center, and customer service operations to avoid market confusion, present a united front for energy efficiency in the area, and accomplish their goals more efficiently. Sharing best practices and lessons learned has allowed RePower Kitsap to grow faster.

The program also builds on an energy efficiency program created by the Kitsap County government using federal stimulus funds. The county program provides funding to support a limited number of energy assessments. Moreover, RePower Kitsap customers can take advantage of specialized energy efficiency financing backed up by a loan loss reserve fund established by Kitsap County and the city of Bainbridge Island.

A Focus on Air Sealing

The first round of home assessments in 2011 prompted RePower Kitsap to focus its attention in 2012 on air sealing as a priority energy efficiency measure. Sealing the leaks and gaps in a house is a big energy saver, and it is most effective if it comes before other measures such as insulation or furnaces. Effective air sealing requires blower door equipment and trained staff, which were in short supply before RePower got started.

Despite the key role of air sealing in building performance, it can be hard to convince consumers to buy this service before they spend money on new equipment, windows, or insulation. To help move the market, RePower began offering a $400 incentive for homeowners who opt for blower door testing and a whole-house air sealing treatment by a certified professional. If an older water heater would prevent air sealing, the program will also help pay for a new unit that does not use indoor air.

Energy Performance Scores Provide Market Information

The program not only works with local partners, but also participates in a partnership with three other states. RePower Kitsap is the Washington State portion of a collaboration with Alabama, Massachusetts, and Virginia coordinated by the National Association of State Energy Officials and known as "A Multi-state Model for Catalyzing the National Home Energy Retrofit Market."

The state projects differ in many ways, but they are using a common approach based on a residential Energy Performance Score (EPS) system developed by Earth Advantage Institute. An EPS assessment provides data on the energy consumption and carbon emissions of a house. Homeowners can use the score to evaluate potential upgrades and monitor their progress over time. To ensure the EPS is incorporated into home energy evaluations, RePower Kitsap has trained 26 energy professionals to measure and validate the EPS ratings.

RePower is also working to encourage real estate professionals to use EPS ratings. The idea behind this innovative marketing technique is to drive demand for energy efficiency improvements by enhancing the market value of homes that have a higher EPS rating. The scores provide market information to buyers and sellers, and lenders can use them to review mortgage and improvement loan applications. RePower Kitsap has also trained 44 local real estate agents and appraisers to use EPS results in their work.

RePower Kitsap, along with the programs in Massachusetts, Alabama, and Virginia, is jointly investing in a Web information portal that will allow homeowners to review their EPS scorecards online, as well as view results from energy evaluations, financing terms, and other details in one centralized location. This will provide homeowners with the information they need to determine which energy efficiency measures will be the best investments for their homes and make the best decisions about implementing smart energy upgrades.

Once residents make their decisions, they will have access through the Web information portal to the resources they need to move forward, including qualified contractors and participating lenders, energy professionals, and real estate agents, to proceed with the upgrades.

By engaging consumers through online tools and energy labeling as well as reaching out to energy experts through training and workforce development, RePower Kitsap hopes to establish a residential energy upgrade market that will sustain itself long after the project is completed. Through carefully measurement, verification, and evaluation, the program will learn as it goes and allow best practices to be shared across states and become a model for similar communities.


Glenn Blackmon

U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program