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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Location: Philadelphia and Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties, Pennsylvania
Seed Funding: $25 million
Target Building Types: Residential (single and multifamily), commercial, industrial, and government
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Better Buildings Helps Make History—and Efficiency—in the Greater Philadelphia Region

The Greater Philadelphia region's historic buildings and homes are among the most significant in American history, but they predate modern energy-efficient designs by centuries. In fact, some buildings have been found to leak air at a rate 10 times that of typical buildings their size. But it takes a lot to make older buildings more energy efficient and comfortable. Expensive, up-front out-of-pocket costs for energy efficiency improvements have been a barrier to reducing Greater Philadelphia buildings' energy use in the past.

To overcome this challenge, many stakeholders—from local governments to financing specialists to energy efficiency experts—have joined together with one goal in mind: improve the energy efficiency of the buildings in the Greater Philadelphia area. With $25 million in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, Philadelphia and the nearby counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery have created EnergyWorks, a comprehensive energy solutions program for home and commercial/industrial building owners.

Residential: Unique Star System Spurs Upgrades
Workforce: Building a Network of Trained Professionals
Commercial: EnergyWorks for Business
Financing: EnergyWorks Draws on Established Community Institutions as Partners

Unique Star System Spurs Upgrades

Many homes in the Greater Philadelphia area have been around for much of the region's storied history, but their residents suffer from cold and drafty rooms, leaky windows and doors, little or no insulation in the attic, older boilers, and outdated hot water heating systems and air conditioners. Even more modern homes may have some or all of these problems. To help improve homes that are too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer, EnergyWorks is helping homeowners in the Delaware Valley make energy efficiency improvements.

EnergyWorks provides assessments and energy upgrades at two levels: Gold Star and Silver Star. The Gold Star level, a whole-house approach, begins with a $300 assessment by a participating certified technician to determine what energy efficiency improvements will benefit a home most. If a homeowner decides to follow through with an energy improvement project of at least $1,000, EnergyWorks will rebate 50% of the assessment's cost so that homeowners only have to pay $150.

For homeowners choosing from a list of energy efficiency improvements, low-interest loans of up to $15,000 are available, in addition to tax credits and rebates. The interest rate is tied to the degree of energy efficiency attained. Gold Star projects, consisting of multiple efficiency measures and guided by an assessment, are eligible for the lowest possible rate—0.99% fixed for 10 years.

As an alternative to the Gold Star level, the Silver Star level allows homeowners to initiate energy efficiency improvements by installing a single energy efficiency measure using a participating home energy expert, which can qualify them for a loan with a rate as low as 4.99%, in addition to rebates and tax credits.

Building a Network of Trained Professionals

To help grow the efficiency market over the long term, EnergyWorks is developing a network of trained and Building Performance Institute-certified energy professionals who can sell and implement energy upgrades for residential and commercial customers. The program is offering qualified energy experts benefits to participate, including the ability to market low-interest loans to their customers and access to special discounts on buildings materials. It also offers support to allow contracting professionals who have not worked in energy efficiency before to become part of the program and helps them access training to upgrade their skills over time. These training opportunities allow contractors to learn the skills they need to promote and provide the benefits of deeper energy efficiency upgrades at the Gold Star level.

EnergyWorks for Business

Energy professionals aren't the only businesspeople to benefit from EnergyWorks' efforts. The program also offers financing to commercial building owners for energy efficiency upgrades. Eligible borrowers include commercial, nonprofit, government, multifamily residential, and industrial entities throughout the Greater Philadelphia region.

Designed to offer a more streamlined path toward energy upgrades compared with traditional energy efficiency finance vehicles, EnergyWorks provides expert assistance, building energy assessments, and low-interest loans built on a standard commercial construction loan or equipment lease platform. These simple tools help building owners invest in large-scale energy renovations that result in practical, money-saving changes that would otherwise be too expensive for them to undertake. By leveraging its Better Buildings funds, the program is providing qualified commercial energy upgrade projects with more than $20 million in loans in amounts from $100,000 to $1 million or more.

The typical interest rate on an EnergyWorks commercial loan is 3.5%. To qualify for an EnergyWorks building energy loan, the project must achieve a 25% reduction in energy consumption.

EnergyWorks Draws on Established Community Institutions as Partners

Two pillars of the Philadelphia financial/investment community are partnering to back the loans that will help banish drafts and waste from Philadelphia's commercial buildings. The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), Philadelphia's city-wide economic development corporation, has a 50-year history supporting commercial and economic growth in Philadelphia. The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) is one of the nation's largest community development financial institutions and a true innovator in the energy efficiency financing field. PIDC and TRF have issued more than $1 billion in financial instruments focused on urban regeneration and policy innovation.

EnergyWorks' residential program also has the support of well-established partners. The program relies on the Keystone HELP Program and its operator, AFC First Financial, to run its energy efficiency lending program. The Energy Coordinating Agency, a nationally renowned non-profit energy efficiency services organization, supports assessment, quality assurance, and, most importantly, community outreach efforts.


Katherine Gajewski

U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program