The Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Climate Initiative Home Energy Affordability Loan (HEAL) program is a unique, energy-based benefits program designed to improve quality of life – at both the corporate and homeowner levels – by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improving energy performance in commercial buildings, as well as residential buildings of qualifying employees and community members.
Not only does it give employees a smaller carbon footprint and more money in their pocket, the changes made by HEAL have additional benefits, like improving health and productivity.
With the HEAL program already making an overwhelming impact and expanding exponentially every day, we asked HEAL Program Manager Martha Jane Murray and Deputy Manager Keith Canfield five questions about how the program is reducing energy consumption and energy bills – and changing the way companies do business and how employees live.
1. What sort of measurable figures does the HEAL program translate to for a business, or an average homeowner?
MJM: The HEAL program always keeps the core objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as the driver of program design and impact. The unique approach of HEAL is that it can impact both commercial buildings and homes.
For example, four Arkansas businesses – L’Oreal USA (North Little Rock), Arlington Hotel (Hot Springs), Hendrix College (Conway) and Friendship Community Care (Russellville) – are saving 2,742 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually with a four year payback on the $1.2 million investment. Meanwhile, 550 employees in Central Arkansas have received home retrofits to further reduce annual GHG emissions by more than 1,000 tons, providing an average annual savings of nearly $400 for each of those families.
KC: From the standpoint of energy and cost savings as a benefit, the retrofit provides savings not just one year, but for the life of the energy measures adopted — as long as 10-15 years. For employees, the cash flow increase brought about through the home energy savings has the same effect as a pay raise, but with a fraction of the cost for an employer even before considering the ancillary benefits of employee retention, attendance and productivity.
2. Why do you think HEAL is so revered by those it helps?
MJM: A central focus of the HEAL model is to eliminate those places in the home energy process where homeowners traditionally “self-eject,” usually due to frustration with a fragmented and onerous process. So, to ease any sort of scheduling conflicts for the initial home energy audit, employees enroll conveniently at the workplace by reserving a convenient date and time. Further, if any bids for recommended improvements are needed, they are conducted in tandem with the audit, eliminating the homeowner having to find a contractor and/or take time off work to get a quote.
Financing, of course, is within walking distance of the employee’s desk, and fears of contractor fraud were largely assuaged by CCI’s measurement and verification of each home retrofit. The end result is an easy and convenient experience for the employee-participant, as well as very low implementation barriers for an employer’s human resources team.
3. What organizations has HEAL partnered with in Arkansas? Throughout the United States?
MJM: Since its 2009 inception in Arkansas, CCI has partnered with state and national energy organizations, including the University of Arkansas Applied Sustainability Center, Arkansas Energy Office, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency. CCI also has worked with regulated utilities, such as a partnership with CenterPoint Energy to develop and implement Arkansas’ first performance-based natural gas residential energy efficiency program.
In another first, HEAL is currently working with Ouachita Electric Inc., an electric cooperative headquartered in Camden, Ark., that serves five counties in a more rural area of the state, to offer HEAL not only to employers in the area, but also to its co-op membership as well.
KC: After proof of concept of the HEAL model in Arkansas, last year CCI began expanding the HEAL program into other U.S. states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Vermont, Missouri, North Carolina and California — a feat which prompted the EPA to present HEAL with the 2013 Climate Showcase Communities Ambassador Award for most replicable program. From these six states, nearly a dozen different employers in a variety of industries with a cumulative workforce of more than 50,000 have embraced HEAL as a benefit, with other states expected to come on-line in 2014.
4. What do you want to see HEAL tackle in the upcoming years?
MJM: 2014 promises to be an exciting year for HEAL, both within Arkansas and beyond. CCI is currently working on Arkansas’ first on-bill collection retrofit finance process with Ouachita Electric, designed to expand the opportunities for people to affordably finance their energy retrofits. If the pilot is successful, we would work to expand the program statewide by examining enabling legislation in Arkansas that would tie on-bill collection by the utility to the residential meter, rather than with the occupant, making retrofit financing available to renters and those who are credit-challenged.
KC: Also, CCI is working to incorporate the national Healthy Homes housing standards and occupant health impacts into the HEAL offering. Using program guidance from federal agencies, such as HUD, EPA and CDC, and partnering with leading NGOs, such as the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative and Children’s Mercy Hospital, HEAL is aligning the efficiency gains of energy retrofits with the growing body of research to help improve occupants’ health. This is an exciting emerging area of impact that can have significant cost, productivity and quality of life benefits for the employee, their family and the employer.
Finally, CCI-HEAL is taking an active and influential role in the residential carbon emissions reduction arena, working with leading entities, such as Duke University’s Carbon Offset Initiative and the state of Rhode Island’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative fund, to scale residential energy retrofits into a cost effective carbon emissions tool. Since our primary mission is climate impact reduction by reducing energy consumption, we are concerned about making the deepest, consistent and measurable impacts possible that will be resilient, and of long duration. In order to achieve CCI’s mission, we may expand our role to address standards in the energy market to help achieve greater surety of impact and consistency of measurement.
5. What has being involved with HEAL meant to you, personally?
KC: I came to CCI after partnering with them on post-Katrina rebuilding in New Orleans because of the resources and scale they bring to the climate change mitigation effort. It’s always been difficult to bring scale to home-energy improvements that result in verifiable carbon emission reductions, because it requires tens of millions of us, as homeowners and renters, not only to act but to have the resources necessary to act. I feel the HEAL program offers the aggregation point that puts all the necessary pieces together for any of us, all of us, to act in our homes – it’s good for us as individuals by saving money and collectively by saving the planet. I don’t think I could find a more rewarding job, which is why I’m entering the seventh year of what was originally a six-month leave of absence from the corporate world to be here at CCI HEAL.
MJM: Making a difference in people’s lives is the most important part of our work — it always has been. As an employer of a shoe factory, when I first started this concept I participated in every audit in my employees' homes, and I was humbled. I witnessed working families heating their homes in February with their ovens and cook-tops with small children in the house. I realized that many of our employees were raising grandchildren and using up their retirement funds to take care of their children’s children — they needed help to make ends meet.
One way to stretch a paycheck when business profits are slim is to provide access to an energy benefit like HEAL — energy education, a simplified process, and access to upfront cost — reducing energy cost not just for one month, but year-round for the life of the retrofit measures. Our goal is that the HEAL model will have a big, scalable impact to mitigate climate change as an employee benefit (on par with the uptake of healthcare benefits and 401(k)s. But, in the meantime we get to meet and experience individuals daily who shake our hands with gratitude in their eyes.
Learn more about the step-by-step HEAL process.