Jacksonville Metro Credit Union
Community First Credit Union
Coastline Federal Credit Union
Northeast Florida Builders Association
JEA Helps Jacksonville Homes Shop Smart for Energy Efficiency
Keeping a home comfortable in Florida's hot and humid climate is an inherent challenge for the residents of Florida's largest city, especially for those with older homes and rising utility costs. Fortunately, Jacksonville, Florida, residents can turn to JEA, a non-profit, community-owned utility that is a sub-grantee to the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance. With $1.2 million in seed funding from the Energy Department's Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, JEA is helping residents address both their comfort and economic challenges by making their homes more energy-efficient. By helping build demand among homeowners for home energy efficiency upgrades and connecting consumers to financing, JEA is creating a market for local lending institutions to provide energy upgrade loans at competitive rates, while providing work opportunities for Northeast Florida building professionals who had previously been involved in new construction.
Program Design: Targeting Older Homes With Savings Benefits
Driving Demand: Contests, Block Parties Help Market Makeovers
Financing: Improving Lending Options and Approvals
Workforce Development: Training and Transitioning Professionals in Northeast Florida
Targeting Older Homes With Savings Benefits
As it sought to grow its existing residential energy efficiency program, JEA's first challenge was to raise awareness among Jacksonville residents of the improved comfort and cost savings that can result from home energy efficiency upgrades. Early on, the program spent time educating the local homeowner community about the home energy assessment process and benefits. JEA created a "Home Investment Curve" infographic and a series of fact sheets to help homeowners understand potential home improvements, from no-cost behavioral changes to longer-payback measures that require greater investment.
Initially, JEA had created its demand-side management program, ShopSmart with JEA, as a way to offer rebates for purchases of items such as energy-efficient appliances and insulation. To entice more customers to participate, JEA supplemented its rebates with a comprehensive home energy consultation program and worked with local lenders to offer attractive financing mechanisms. These elements formed the core of JEA's holistic, whole-house approach to energy efficiency improvements.
Before a state energy efficiency code took effect in 1980, many Jacksonville homes were constructed with little regard for energy demand. With a particular focus on these older homes, ShopSmart with JEA identifies cost-effective measures to reduce homes' energy use by 15%.
Contests, Block Parties Help Market Makeovers
In an effort to identify segments of the population that are interested in improving the energy performance of their homes and can pay for or finance such upgrades, JEA first conducted direct mail campaigns in areas of Jacksonville with the greatest levels of home ownership. Based on customers' responses to this initial outreach, JEA gained a greater understanding of its target demographic. The program also learned that its customer base is not homogenous—different customers may be motivated to pursue upgrades for different reasons. Some appreciate the financial payback, while others are seeking to improve the comfort of their home. By utilizing demographic information to better understand its customer base, JEA has been able to market the ShopSmart with JEA program more effectively.
JEA ran a community-wide contest in fall 2011 to promote residential energy efficiency and to ignite interest in the program. The contest offered two free Home Energy Makeovers—comprehensive, whole-house solutions for making a home more energy-efficient—and eight runners-up received incentives to apply towards energy efficiency upgrades. The contest attracted more than 5,000 entrants and helped to simultaneously increase awareness of the program and drive demand for residential energy efficiency in the Jacksonville area.
JEA has also initiated a pilot program to foster awareness among neighborhood communities known as Home Energy Makeover: Block Party. Homeowners who had contracted with a local energy professional to receive a home energy assessment offered to host these parties for their neighbors. The energy professionals attended the parties as well and reviewed the entire process of upgrading a home—from receiving an initial assessment to installing upgrades and applying for rebates—and answered questions from family, friends, and neighbors in attendance.
Previously, the program's approach to marketing was a disjointed group effort involving JEA, contractors, and lenders. By recognizing the effectiveness of cross-promoting the program through different stakeholders using various types of media, ShopSmart with JEA has consolidated its messaging efforts and improved the consistency and frequency of its marketing campaigns.
Improving Lending Options and Approvals
ShopSmart with JEA provides a list of local, prequalified energy professionals to interested homeowners and offers free or highly subsidized home energy assessments. Once homeowners have an assessment conducted, rebates are available for energy-efficient appliances and materials. A post-upgrade home inspection can be rebated as well, if the home achieves a 15% overall energy reduction.
As demand for energy efficiency upgrades has grown, local lenders have begun to offer improved financing options for implementing these upgrades. Three local credit unions provide competitive interest rates to qualified customers, and JEA provides an interest rate buy-down incentive. As a result, qualified customers can receive interest rates as low as 0% on loans for energy efficiency upgrades.
Through ShopSmart with JEA, lenders and contractors have begun to collaborate to streamline the loan approval process. Contractors can help homeowners decide which home performance upgrades to install and then help connect the homeowners to the lender to evaluate potential financing options. As a result of these relationships with contractors, lending institutions have been able to turn around lending decisions more rapidly (most within 24 hours). JEA expects this process, which has been instrumental to the program's success, to remain viable even after the expenditure of grant funding.
Training and Transitioning Professionals in Northeast Florida
Jacksonville has not traditionally supported a home performance industry for existing homes. In the past, most home energy professionals worked with building companies to rate newly constructed homes and did not interact with homeowners. As the pace of new home construction has slowed, however, JEA has helped train these skilled professionals to become experts on upgrading existing homes and to work directly with homeowners.
JEA partnered with a local trade group, the Northeast Florida Builders Association (NEFBA), to create E-Council, a venue for building science education and training across the Northeast Florida community. Through NEFBA, JEA provided several training opportunities for contractors and home energy professionals and is considering offering additional training opportunities to provide instruction to field-level personnel who install energy efficiency upgrades in local homes.
U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program