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For forty years, the Energy Department’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) has advanced greater energy efficiency in low-income households for the elderly, disabled, and families through grants to states, territories, and Native American tribes. It is estimated that more than 50 million homes are eligible for weatherization improvements. To date, the federal program has helped weatherize more than 7 million homes, helping to improve the health and safety of occupants while reducing energy bills. Home energy costs can be especially high during cold winter months.
WAP services every political subdivision in the country through a strong network of 59 grantees: 50 states, the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories, and three select Native American tribes. These grantees contract with a network of almost 800 community action agencies, nonprofits, and local governments to install cost-effective energy conservation measures in homes.
Weatherization upgrades typically enhance insulation, air sealing, heating and cooling systems. Recently solar PV installations were also added to the program. These improvements reduce carbon pollution, save families money, and prevent low-income Americans from having to choose between food, medicine, and heat for their home.
Job creation remains one of WAP’s greatest impacts. A recent national evaluation of WAP found that in a typical year the program supports 8,500 jobs. At one point during the American Investment and Recovery Act period, WAP ranked as the eighth-largest job creation program, employing over 15,000 additional workers in support of the national infrastructure.
One worker who recently found her career through WAP is Jasmine Romero of New Mexico. Romero trained to learn essential home weatherization skills at the New Mexico EnergySmart Academy, a weatherization training center at Santa Fe Community College. The center integrates the Energy Department’s standardized curriculum and is partially funded by WAP. Romero earned certifications in retrofit installation, lead-safe practices, OSHA 10, First Aid, and CPR. After training, she became an Assistant Crew Supervisor in the field.
Many WAP-supported jobs relate to installation of energy upgrades and home inspection. Last year, WAP mandated that all its home inspections be completed by professionally certified quality control inspectors. The new certifications require home energy professionals to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge, practical skills, and technical proficiency in the four areas: energy auditor, retrofit installer technician, crew leader, and quality control inspector.
This certification is the only professional credential for individuals providing quality control services in the weatherization and home performance industry. To establish the framework for these four Home Energy Professional certifications, the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) brought together more than 40 industry-nominated volunteers to define the general requirements of each (e.g., prerequisites, exam structure, practical application, and re-certification requirements).
“It’s normal to see people who have been in the program for 15 or 20 years,” explains WAP Program Manager Dave Rinebolt, “but during that time we built a training infrastructure—we’ve been able to bring younger kids in. Rebuilding and constantly turning over that workforce has been a part of this for 40 years.”