This week, the Home Energy Affordability Loan (HEAL) program celebrates its five-year anniversary. Spearheaded by the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) in 2009, HEAL works with employers to make energy improvements on company facilities and then provides employees with the resources to complete cost-effective, energy-saving home audits and retrofits.
As we mark the fifth-year anniversary of HEAL, here are five things to know about the program:
1. HEAL helps reduce CO2 emissions and address climate change
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 simultaneously.
For example, four Arkansas businesses – L’Oreal USA (North Little Rock), Arlington Hotel (Hot Springs), Hendrix College (Conway) and Friendship Community Care (Russellville) – are reducing 2,742 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually through the HEAL program. Meanwhile, nearly 750 employees in Arkansas and six other states have received home retrofits to further reduce annual GHG emissions by more than 1,500 tons per year.
CCI-HEAL is taking an active and influential role in the residential carbon emissions reduction arena. It works with leading entities to scale residential energy retrofits into a cost effective carbon emissions tool.
2. HEAL saves money for families and businesses
HEAL was inspired by the Clinton Foundation’s Hurricane Katrina recovery programs in New Orleans. After seeing firsthand how energy efficient home renovations were benefitting low and moderate income homeowners, CCI further developed HEAL for broad application in the workplace.
From the standpoint of energy and cost savings as a benefit, the retrofit provides savings not just for one year, but for the life of the energy measures adopted, as long as 10 to 15 years. For employees, the cash flow increase brought about through the home energy savings has the same effect as a pay raise, but at a fraction of the cost for an employer, even before considering the co-benefits of employee retention, attendance, and productivity.
As a result of a recent HEAL project, employees are experiencing $447 in annual increased disposable income through utility expense reductions. To achieve a similar effect on disposable income through a traditional salary increase would cost the employer $6,443 over 10 years, over five times the one time per employee cost of HEAL.
3. HEAL has a ripple effect that helps local economies thrive
HEAL brings home energy efficiency to the workplace, but the impact of the program doesn’t stop there as communities where employers offer HEAL can benefit as well. Since HEAL was enacted five years ago, HEAL and its replication programs have impacted 5,600 individuals in seven states and created over $3.75 million in construction activity. Additionally, these programs are producing utility bill savings of over $625,000 per year. Aside from the societal benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, home energy audits, and the resulting home efficiency, upgrades provide economic opportunity for local auditors and contractors.
A recent HEAL pilot projected a $8.7 million economic impact for a children’s hospital with 3,000 participating employees.
4. HEAL improves Health
Recent studies have indicated that lower utility bills can lead to higher appraisal values for newly efficient homes, and that such homes can be “healthier” in terms of certain occupant health outcomes. For example, a home lacking insulation can experience temperature swings, unhealthy indoor air quality, and dangerous mold and mildew accumulation, all factors known to exacerbate asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Research from the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative demonstrates the dramatic impact of a home performance upgrade of occupant health. In a case involving a working single mother and her two asthmatic daughters, a comprehensive home performance upgrade and health assessment has lowered health care costs by $70,000 through asthma-related hospital and urgent care expense reductions.
5. HEAL can be replicated
Launched in October 2009 in Arkansas, CCI scaled HEAL to an employer in each of Arkansas’ Congressional Districts. After seeing the program’s benefits in Arkansas, last year CCI began expanding the HEAL program into six other pilot locations — 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 piloted HEAL as a benefit, with other states expected to come on-line in 2014.
CCI is also working to further develop the program for large employers with new offerings targeting other areas of employee sustainability such as transportation and water conservation.