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The last several years have seen a true revolution in clean energy, thanks in part to bold R&D investments from the Department of Energy (DOE). But DOE’s investments and impacts go well beyond that. We’ve been helping Americans live better, healthier lives and driving progress on efficiency for four decades now through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).

As we mark National Weatherization Day on Oct. 30, it’s the perfect time to celebrate the achievements we’ve seen since the program launched. Events and proclamations recognizing the program will be held in 13 states and at more than 700 community action agencies.

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) advances greater energy efficiency in low-income households, including for some of our most vulnerable citizens - the elderly, the disabled, and children. Through grants to states, territories, and Native American tribes, the program has facilitated energy efficiency improvements at more than 7 million homes – including 1 million weatherized from funding during the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. These upgrades have saved money for families, improved health and safety for home occupants, and reduced carbon pollution. It’s been estimated that for every $1 invested in the program, WAP returns $4.50 in energy and non-energy benefits.

WAP has also been a catalyst for creating thousands of jobs, either directly or indirectly, in a typical year. We’re now working to ensure that weatherization workers are certified and providing the entire industry with a consistent benchmark for quality.

While WAP has been around since the mid-1970s, it remains a springboard for innovation, continuing to incorporate new strategies and technologies. These technologies include zone pressure diagnostic testing for air leaks, lead-safe protocols for homes built before 1978, and modern blower door testing.

The program has pioneered the development of community-based programs in which states, communities, and local agencies can bring their own resources and solutions to the table. There are exciting developments underway across the country.

For example, Colorado recently became the first state to incorporate solar photovoltaic installation into the program, completing installation of a rooftop solar PV array as part of its services. The Energy Resource Center, a non-profit based in the state, installed a 2-kilowatt (kW) solar PV system at a WAP-eligible home in Colorado Springs. It’s estimated the system will produce more than 3,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) in its first year and net roughly $6,200 in energy cost savings over 20 years. Adding solar to the weatherization menu of services could allow more American communities to access clean energy and tackle the challenge of climate change.

And in Ohio, Hocking-Athen-Perry Community Action and the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD) will soon celebrate Weatherize Nelsonville, a project weatherizing an entire town, including both commercial and public buildings. The agencies, along with their partners Columbia Gas of Ohio and American Electric Power, will showcase the community project on October 31, offering workshops, demonstrations, and testimonials from clients. COAD and its partner agencies bring a wealth of experience, having weatherized over 100,000 homes throughout Ohio’s Appalachian counties since the beginning of the WAP program.

DOE will continue to work with states, communities, small businesses, and utilities to develop new ways to use technology and innovation to increase the impact of our weatherization efforts. Few government programs have had as large an impact on peoples’ lives – and we are committed to continuing to serving them as the gold standard for the home performance industry.

Making a home more energy efficient is one of the cheapest and most effective means of reducing carbon emissions. That’s why WAP is a key part of DOE’s clean energy strategy – and a program that has touched the lives of millions of Americans.