CPS Energy Savers
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Seed Funding: $10 million
Target Building Types: Residential and commercial
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Outreach Strategies from Better Buildings Grantees: San Antonio and Boulder September 14, 2010
San Antonio, Texas, Goes Big on Efficiency to Help Shrink Utility Bills
Located deep in the heart of South Central Texas, San Antonio is all too familiar with record-breaking temperatures and intense sun that can break even the toughest cowboys. Unrelenting heat in the summer and cold snaps in the winter cause spikes in energy demand—and property owners' utility bills.
San Antonio and its municipal utility, CPS Energy, are leading the charge on energy efficiency to help homeowners and businesses use less electricity and cut costs. With $10 million in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, the CPS Energy Savers program has set a goal of reducing whole-house energy use by 15% and improving energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings over the three-year grant period.
Program Options Fit Customers' Needs
According to Laurence Doxsey, environmental policy director for the City of San Antonio, energy efficiency improvements in San Antonio have traditionally been handled in a reactive manner, meaning that something is fixed only when it becomes a problem, instead of looking at energy use of a building as a whole. As a Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partner, CPS Energy Savers allows customers to review all facets of their energy use and is making upgrades more accessible with significant savings on energy evaluations, home energy improvements, and energy savings opportunities for commercial buildings. The cost of energy efficiency upgrades is offset with a variety of utility-sponsored rebates.
Residential customers have two energy evaluation options to best fit their needs. One option is a free online quiz to self-evaluate energy use. Those who take the quiz receive a free home energy report with recommended upgrades and a $5 credit on their next bill. The next level is an in-home, professional energy evaluation, rebated from $200 down to $25. The city provides a $2,000 cash incentive for all homes reaching or exceeding the 15% retrofit target with funding in place for 750 incentives. Additionally, in conjunction with Energy Finance Solutions, the city provides loans of up to $20,000 for 10 years with financing from 0% to 3.99% depending on credit worthiness.
Commercial Customers Benefit Too
CPS Energy Savers is also offering significant incentives for commercial customers. By joining CPS Energy Savers, business customers can qualify for an additional 10% on top of the existing utility rebates. Additional benefits for commercial customers include a 75% cost reduction for both energy evaluations and building retro-commissioning. Retro-commissioning—a systematic, documented process that identifies low-cost operational and maintenance improvements in existing buildings—can translate into significant energy savings for facilities. For a retro-commissioning, CPS Energy Savers will pay 75% of the cost of the study.
Once an energy evaluation has been performed, commercial building owners can be reimbursed for the full amount of its cost, if they implement the two most recommended measures identified in the evaluation.
Making a Match
CPS Energy Savers is partnering with the local Better Business Bureau to help customers find and get bids from experienced and qualified energy efficiency professionals to implement building improvements. Contractors must be registered and licensed with the City of San Antonio, and those providing air flow services must be approved by CPS Energy. With the Better Business Bureau encouraging use of these local businesses, CPS Energy Savers hopes to cement the city's efforts to create a new clean energy economy.
Spreading the Word—in Spanish
In addition to traditional marketing and outreach—bus signs, advertising, and a dedicated website—CPS Energy Savers is employing methods designed to engage San Antonio's Latino community, which makes up the majority of the city's population. Historically, this tactic has worked well with other public information campaigns such as those targeting public health and safety issues. Outreach workers will have Spanish-language brochures and other materials on hand to distribute to customers. The city is also partnering with Alamo Colleges and the Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded Eco Centro program for direct outreach, education, and assistance to the Latino community.
U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program