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The Energy Department’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) reduces energy costs for low-income households by increasing energy efficiency in their homes, while ensuring their health and safety. Congressional leaders recently joined the national weatherization network to commemorate WAP’s 40 years of excellence in service.
Energy Department officials, nonprofit leaders, and members of Congress attended the Capitol Hill event. Among the nonprofits represented were the National Association for State Community Service Programs (NASCSP), Association for Energy Affordability (AEA), National Energy Unity and Affordability Coalition (NEUAC), American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy (ACEEE), and Community Housing Partners (CHP).
WAP clients such as Kelly Fonteijn attested to the program’s impact. “It’s made our house a lot warmer and more comfortable,” Fonteijn said. “The [weatherization] crew was gracious and the work that they did was such high quality.”
Here are some of the top program accomplishments over the last 40 years:
- The Weatherization Assistance Program has weatherized over 7 million homes. A large portion of this work came during the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which provided $5 billion in additional funding to support jobs, spur economic growth, and expedite the weatherization of low-income homes. In just three years, more than 1 million homes were weatherized under ARRA.
- The Weatherization Assistance Program created the residential home performance industry. The program was created in 1976 under Title IV of the Energy Conservation and Production Act to assist low-income families when the 1973 oil crisis was affecting millions of Americans. In this early phase, volunteers and job trainees installed low-cost conservation measures, such as covering windows with plastic sheeting, caulking, and weatherstripping to reduce home heating bills. By the 1980s, weatherization services focused on more permanent and cost-effective measures, such as insulation and improving efficiency in heating systems. Today’s home performance industry, comprising for-profit companies, is based on many of the practices and technologies developed by the Weatherization Assistance Program.
- Job creation under ARRA. According to a 2015 Oak Ridge National Laboratory national evaluation study, during the 2010 year of the Recovery Act, WAP created or retained approximately 28,000 jobs.
- The Weatherization Assistance Program created national training and certification standards to ensure excellence in weatherization services. The Guidelines for Home Energy Professionals project is a suite of technical tools and resources developed to support the national residential energy upgrade industry and a skilled and credentialed workforce. The Guidelines project includes: The Standard Work Specifications for Home Energy Upgrades, Accreditation of Energy Efficiency Training Programs, and Home Energy Professional certifications.
- Solar becomes part of weatherization services. Colorado recently became the first state to complete installation of a rooftop solar array as part of its WAP services. The 2-kilowatt solar system was installed at a residential home in Colorado Springs. The system is projected to produce about 3,245 kilowatt hours in its first year and about $6,207 in energy cost savings over 20 years.
WAP’s future is full of promise. “We’ll just keep raising the bar because that’s what this program has done for 40 years,” said WAP Program Manager Dave Rinebolt.