Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Seed Funding: $2.4 million—a portion of SEEA Southeast Consortium's $20 million funding
Target Building Types: Residential (single-family and multifamily), commercial
NOLA WISE Energy Home Makeover Contest, February 17, 2012
Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance
City of New Orleans
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Green Coast Enterprises
Louisiana Green Corps
Fidelity Homestead Savings Bank
NOLA WISE Transforms the Energy Efficiency Market in the Big Easy
In fall 2011, Global Green USA launched NOLA WISE in partnership with the City of New Orleans and the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, a Better Buildings Neighborhood Program. NOLA WISE (for New Orleans, Louisiana and "worthwhile investments save energy") helps homeowners improve the energy efficiency, health and comfort of their homes by taking them from an energy assessment through upgrade completion. NOLA WISE also promotes energy efficiency improvements in multifamily buildings, small businesses, and institutions.
Since its inception, NOLA WISE has worked to enhance the quality of life for New Orleanians by improving home performance, personal finances, and the environment through energy efficiency retrofits. Providing professional and thorough home energy assessments and weatherization from nationally certified green contractors allows households to realize financial savings of up to 30% on their monthly utility bills while improving their indoor air quality. Additionally, NOLA WISE includes a green jobs training component, raising the bar for local contractors while training disadvantaged youth and placing them on NOLA WISE jobsites in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) Environmental Justice program.
Program Design: Residential and Commercial Programs Offer Savings and Convenience
Driving Demand: Homeowner Showcases Complement Media and Marketing Strategies
Financing: Rebates and Low Rates Help Pay for Upgrades
Workforce Development: NOLA WISE Trains Professionals and Youth
Residential and Commercial Programs Offer Savings and Convenience
In the NOLA WISE residential program, call center staff connect clients with Building Performance Institute (BPI) accredited contractors, who perform a Home Performance Evaluation (HPE) on the residence. During the walk-through, the contractor can provide the homeowner with a comprehensive assessment, scope of work, and bid in one easy appointment. This saves the homeowner time and allows the contractor to sell the upgrades onsite for homeowners interested in immediately moving forward. Moving from a rater-centered model to a contractor-centered model has helped build the short-term sustainability of the program, reducing turnaround time and decreasing the steps between initial call and upgrades for the homeowner. Since moving to the HPE model, the length of time from assessment to signed contract has gone down 34%. After 10 months in operation, NOLA WISE had completed nearly 40 retrofits, with nearly 100 assessments in the pipeline working towards signing contracts.
The NOLA WISE commercial program targets multifamily buildings, small businesses, and local institutions interested in lowering their utility bills and improving occupant comfort. The program is particularly attractive to high energy users such as restaurants, groceries, and convenience stores. Like the NOLA WISE residential program, the commercial program aims to achieve a minimum 15% energy savings across the portfolio of participants. Expected energy conservation measures include insulation, duct sealing, HVAC tune-up or replacement, lighting and lighting controls, and energy efficiency equipment unique to each industry.
After funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act elapses, NOLA WISE will be sustained by some or all of the following: charging fees to contractors or customers; extending the program availability to surrounding parishes; income from higher-margin commercial and multifamily projects; streamlined operations; deeper support from local government and philanthropy; and the possibility of increased customer rebates through utility programs or tax credits.
Homeowner Showcases Complement Media and Marketing Strategies
NOLA WISE is working to drive demand to the program through a three-pronged approach: traditional paid media, grassroots outreach, and earned media. Working with a local public relations consultant, NOLA WISE has created a targeted paid media campaign, advertising the program on talk radio, National Public Radio, local television, The Weather Channel, print newspapers, weeklies, and local online news sites.
Additionally, NOLA WISE is engaged in a comprehensive grassroots outreach strategy, working with local farmers' markets, neighborhood associations, and civic groups to inform residents about the program's benefits. Finally, the public relations consultant and the NOLA WISE team work together to identify opportunities for earned media in the local press, including press conferences with local officials, homeowners who have successfully completed the retrofit, and contractors in the program.
NOLA WISE has found the most high-quality leads emerging through innovative Homeowner Showcase events, which is a hybrid between the grassroots and earned media. These outreach efforts consist of an open house tour in the upgraded home of a happy NOLA WISE client. Signage is placed throughout the house, highlighting all the work that was completed and the associated energy savings. The contractor who completed the work is invited to attend to explain the upgrades and network with new leads.
Organized by NOLA WISE and hosted by the homeowner, these Homeowner Showcases get the word out through neighborhood canvassing, e-blasts, social media, collaboration with nearby neighborhood associations, and earned media strategies (i.e., issuing press releases, making guest appearances on local news outlets, etc.). Data have shown an uptick in Home Performance Evaluation requests in neighborhoods where these events have been held, making it an ideal strategy for targeting areas with a large potential number of high-quality leads.
Rebates and Low Rates Help Pay for Upgrades
NOLA WISE helps make energy upgrades affordable by helping homeowners access local utility and federal incentives. On average, NOLA WISE clients are able to leverage more than $500 in rebates toward the cost of assessing and upgrading their homes. Though initially only available in part of the city, NOLA WISE has worked with the local utility provider, the City Council, and state partners to make energy efficiency rebates available citywide starting October 2012.
Working with a local financial institution, Fidelity Homestead Savings Bank, NOLA WISE has made below-market-rate residential and commercial loans available to its clients. The terms of the residential loans include lower credit threshold requirements, making the product available to a wider range of homeowners.
NOLA WISE Trains Professionals and Youth
In less than a year of operation, NOLA WISE has supported 68 full- and part-time jobs, accounting for more than 15,000 job hours worked. These figures include hours worked by program staff, consultants, energy raters and contractors. Additionally, 41 people have been trained to Building Performance Institute standards, and contractors have received an additional 400+ hours of continuing education through workshops, lunch and learns, and supplemental training opportunities.
Through a partnership with EPA's Environmental Justice Program, NOLA WISE has facilitated the completion of BPI training by eight disadvantaged youth. Upon successful completion of BPI testing, these youth are matched with active NOLA WISE contractors for six-month paid apprenticeship opportunities. Moving forward, NOLA WISE is working to incorporate military veterans into its workforce development program as well.
U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program