NWWVT will build on the experience gained from the past two years to expand the HEAT Squad model to four sister NeighborWorks organizations that together serve additional counties in Vermont. The five HEAT Squads, in partnership with Efficiency Vermont, Home Performance BPI certified contractors, and many other entities will encourage and enable 1,000 households to undergo retrofits in two years, building the infrastructure needed to achieve the organization's ultimate goal of transforming statewide market demand for efficiency retrofits such that homeowners of all incomes are well-informed, able, and motivated to invest in energy efficiency measures to save energy and money.
NeighborWorks and Efficiency Vermont - with a new grant from Green Mountain Power Company (GMP) - will complete 780 projects in the expanded territory of Addison, Bennington, Windham, and Windsor counties. With additional fundraising, the HEAT Squad will complete 1,000 retrofits by 2015 and have HEAT Squad personnel laying the ground work for the campaign to reach the entire state. NWWVT will raise funds to support two outreach coordinators and two energy advisors, to provide specialized customer service alongside the existing NeighborWorks staff. NWWVT will also conduct outreach to contractors across the state in order to source the building professionals needed to complete the retrofits, creating 45 new contracting jobs.
To build demand, in July 2013, NeighborWorks HEAT Squad will hire two new outreach coordinators to expand the Rutland County HEAT Squad model into Addison, Bennington, Windham, and Windsor counties. One will be posted in West Rutland and the other in Brattleboro in the offices of the NeighborWorks Windham Windsor Housing Trust. As one strategy used to encourage consumers in the state to make home energy upgrades, NWWVT will utilize the Clinton Climate Initiative HEAL program to engage two employers in each new county to offer energy efficiency financing options to employees, providing audits to 500 households by the end of December, 300 before May 2014, and 400 more before January 2015.
To deliver services, beginning in July 2013, the HEAT Squad will roll out new software called CAKE systems and technical tools, such as tablets designed to significantly reduce clerical burden and increase communications among homeowners, contractors, and HEAT Squad energy advisors. NeighborWorks will increase the number of participating contractors from twelve to twenty through training and business development and will expand the LaborWorks force from nine to twelve and more if needed, creating 45 new contractor jobs.
The process for new funding will begin in summer 2013 for funding in 2014 and beyond. To capitalize the loan fund, the State Treasurer and the Legislature approved the establishment of the Vermont Green Energy Fund in May 2013 with an investment of up to $6.5 million for statewide lending through NeighborWorks.
In 2009, only 26 homeowners in Rutland County, Vermont engaged in deep energy efficiency retrofits despite the fact that Vermonters heat their homes six months of the year, the cost of fuel oil has more than doubled in the last ten years, and Vermont's housing stock is the oldest in the country (and therefore most in need of repairs and upgrades). Rutland County is the second poorest county in the state - but, while low-income households could benefit the most from reducing energy costs, they were the least likely to take action to improve their homes' efficiency. These homeowners have been deterred by high upfront costs (including $400 for an energy audit), inability to qualify for financing, and the need to manage a complex process with uncertain benefits, among other barriers.
NeighborWorks of Western Vermont (NWWVT) is a nonprofit housing agency with 27 years of experience providing education, construction management, and affordable loans to homeowners in need of health and safety improvements. NWWVT addresses the issue of low participation in efficiency programs not by higher cash incentives or marketing techniques, but by improving customer understanding of energy efficiency benefits, reducing the inconvenience of managing the retrofit process, and providing access to affordable financing, all in a one stop shop customer service model called the NeighborWorks HEAT Squad.
Beginning in 2010, with help from a U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings grant, NWWVT set out to bring the benefits of efficiency improvements to 1,000 Rutland County homes in three years using the HEAT Squad model.
For the HEAT Squad to 'go to scale' or statewide and help in achieving the Vermont State goal of 80,000 residential retrofits by 2050 , there is need for approximately $250,000 in start up costs for the expansion into the northern tier counties of Vermont in FY 2015 and FY 2016. This is a far more modest requirement than originally anticipated because the HEAT Squad has begun earning fees for conducting audits directly and for providing marketing and administrative services to contractors. By 2017 the HEAT Squad could be self sustaining if the volume of business is achieved by then.