Worthwhile Investments Save Energy (WISE)
Locations: Atlanta and Decatur, Georgia; Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Charlotte, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; Charlottesville and Hampton Roads, Virginia; Huntsville, Alabama; Jacksonville, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Nashville, Tennessee; U.S. Virgin Islands
Seed Funding: $20 million
Target Building Types: Residential and commercial
Watch the SEEA Southeast Consortium in Action:
Nexus WISE – Huntsville, AL
NOLA WISE – New Orleans, LA
Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) – Charlottesville, VA
- Read about innovative approaches
- Read "Energy Efficiency Upgrades: Benefiting Homeowners and the Environment"
- Read SEEA's "Energy Pro 3 Report"
- Read SEEA Snapshot Reports
- Sign up for Charlottesville's Local Energy Alliance Program newsletter
- Watch NOLA WISE program video
NOLA WISE Energy Home Makeover Contest
February 17, 2012
Drinking From an Open Hydrant: Early Lessons on Driving Demand for Building Energy Efficiency Programs
April 6, 2011
The Southeast Makes a "WISE" Investment in Energy Efficiency
The Southeast United States has experienced some of the fastest population growth in the country—a 20% increase in the last decade, according to the U.S. Census. What's more, annual electricity consumption in the region is projected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to grow 45% between 2000 and 2020. In an area ripe to reap the benefits of energy efficiency, the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) was developed in 2007 to promote energy efficiency throughout the region.
With $20 million in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, SEEA is using its established resources and networks to help upgrade homes and commercial businesses in a consortium of 13 cities across eight states and one territory. Because each city has taken a unique approach to developing and administering its local retrofit program, this group of cities will create program models and best practices to transform the market for energy efficiency across the Southeast. Several of the participating communities have chosen to brand their programs "Worthwhile Investments Save Energy," or WISE.
Consortium Cities Adopt Innovative Approaches
The SEEA Southeast Consortium of local energy efficiency programs is managed by partners, ranging from local government and nonprofit organizations to utilities and private entities. SEEA provides tools and resources to the local programs, allowing them to share information and best practices. In addition, SEEA develops program marketing materials that the individual communities can utilize, where appropriate.
These programs are pioneering innovative local approaches to increasing energy efficiency. Outreach strategies include neighborhood energy challenges, door-to-door canvassing, social media marketing, and media events. To encourage residents to conduct their own home energy evaluations, for example, the local program in Jacksonville, Florida, created home energy audit backpacks that can be checked out from the local library free of charge. The do-it-yourself kits contain tools and instructions for conducting an energy evaluation, as well as information on how to complete simple energy upgrades at home.
Financing Options Make Upgrades Accessible
SEEA Southeast Consortium cities are using a broad range of financial offerings to help property owners offset the upfront cost of energy efficiency upgrades. Most programs offer rebates and other financing opportunities. By leveraging existing financing mechanisms in their communities and creating some new ones, cities have also established a variety of financing options to help fund energy efficiency improvements, including loan loss reserves, revolving loan funds, and interest rate buy-downs.
In New Orleans, Louisiana, NOLA WISE is leveraging additional American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding to create a loan loss reserve for residential financing. The loan loss reserve will enable NOLA WISE to provide nearly $12 million in residential loans to local residents, which is more than 10 times as many loans than would have been available otherwise. Charleston, South Carolina, has established a $250,000 revolving loan fund to allow consumers to finance their energy efficiency improvements. In Jacksonville, Florida, the program has partnered with a local credit union in an interest rate buy-down program, which provides the lenders with upfront payments to reduce the interest rate for home and building owners.
In addition, SEEA has established a $2 million loan loss reserve fund to help insure lenders against defaults in payments, thus lowering the risk to the lender and supporting low interest rates being offered to consumers.
Strengthening the Southeast Job Market With Qualified Workers
With more building owners making energy efficiency improvements, demand for more qualified professionals has also increased. SEEA Southeast Consortium cities are moving aggressively to strengthen the local infrastructure to support job opportunities over the long term. In Charleston, South Carolina, the program established a job training program that has trained more than 200 contractors on energy efficiency improvements; regional marketing materials and campaigns; professional networking; and business development. The Atlanta, Georgia, program has partnered with a local nonprofit organization to design a citywide workforce development plan to maximize job growth. Other cities have implemented a contractor rating system to encourage quality performance.
U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program