Nevada Program Is Betting on Building Energy Upgrades and Jobs
Following a spike in population and economic prosperity in the last decade, Nevada, like the rest of the country, was hit by the economic downturn, resulting in an especially high rate of unemployment for home improvement professionals. The Nevada State Office of Energy (NSOE), HomeFree Nevada, and other partners are promoting energy efficiency upgrades to increase employment opportunities for contractors in the state.
With $5 million in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, NSOE created EnergyFit Nevada (formerly known as the Nevada Home Energy Fitness Campaign) to help upgrade homes in the major metropolitan areas of Las Vegas, Henderson, Reno, and Sparks, Nevada. The Nevada Home Energy Fitness Campaign jump-started the state's energy efficiency market to meet the state's larger goal of upgrading more than 500,000 homes by 2021.
Program Design: Strength in Partnerships
Driving Demand: Referrals Drive Program Participation
Financing: Rebates Encourage Significant Energy Reductions
Workforce Development: Market Demand to Increase Jobs
Strength in Partnerships
Although several stakeholders had been working to increase residential energy efficiency in the state, there previously hadn't been much collaboration among the groups. Now, nonprofits, businesses, and institutions are combining their resources to support EnergyFit Nevada and working to sustain energy efficiency demand beyond the three-year grant period.
EnergyFit Nevada is working with local universities on various aspects of the program. The University of Nevada–Las Vegas (UNLV) conducted focus groups and is facilitating grassroots marketing efforts to generate homeowner interest in the program; the University of Nevada–Reno (UNR) is working with banks to offer low-interest loans for homeowners; and Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) created job training programs for local contractors. TMCC typically trains five to six students each semester, with a 90% graduation rate.
The campaign is also working with the city of Las Vegas to leverage its expertise in media and public relations to brand and organize public outreach efforts. EnergyFit Nevada officially launched on Earth Day 2012 and is implementing a variety of related marketing efforts, including EnergyFit Nevada Day, public open houses at two energy-efficient model homes, and presentations at homeowner associations and town hall meetings.
The program is also working closely with HomeFree Nevada—an existing program that helps implement Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® and provides contractor services—to facilitate participants through the program and to provide quality assurance.
Referrals Drive Program Participation
To help EnergyFit Nevada create an effective marketing strategy, UNLV and the City of Las Vegas conducted focus groups. Through this qualitative research, they learned that homeowners are more receptive to energy efficiency improvements if they hear about them from a neighbor or friend.
To capitalize on this marketing opportunity, EnergyFit Nevada created a referral system, whereby residents who have experienced the benefits of energy efficiency encourage their neighbors to get an energy evaluation by providing them with a referral card. EnergyFit Nevada is also using yard signs at participating homes to promote energy efficiency evaluations and upgrades among neighbors. EnergyFit Nevada organizers believe the program will generate exponential interest as more homeowners make these improvements.
Rebates Encourage Significant Energy Reductions
EnergyFit Nevada offered a $1,000 rebate to homeowners that achieve at least a 20% energy reduction. In early 2012, the program increased that incentive by an additional $1,000 for homeowners who reached a 30% increase in overall efficiency. The response to this additional incentive has been positive, with 19 homeowners receiving the incentive in the first two months. UNR is also working with banks to establish low-interest loans. Green Chips, HomeFree Nevada, and Nevada State Bank have created a residential low-interest loan program with a 2.6% interest rate for homeowners.
HomeFree Nevada coordinates the energy evaluation—which in addition to assessing energy efficiency opportunities and making recommendations, checks for safety measures—and connects homeowners with an upgrade professional. HomeFree Nevada also coordinates a second energy evaluation to confirm the energy reduction and provides quality assurance on the upgrade installation. Completed projects have resulted in an average 24% energy efficiency improvement, which equates to $708 in energy cost savings per year. Some homes have even reduced their energy use by as much as 40%.
Market Demand to Increase Jobs
EnergyFit Nevada will help create more employment opportunities for both energy professionals and those who install the upgrades. Working with HomeFree Nevada and TMCC to provide training and Building Performance Institute (BPI) certification, the program is increasing the number of professionals qualified to conduct home energy evaluations. EnergyFit Nevada is also training both energy evaluation professionals and contractors in sales techniques to help them close the deal.
Kevin Hill, EFN Project Manager
U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program