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“Clean Energy Works Portland” a Model for Other Communities, States
City Pilot on Financing Home Retrofits Goes Statewide

July 18, 2011


Portland’s Clean Energy Works Portland (CEWP) started as a pilot program to demonstrate how user-friendly financing and other support services can help homeowners who want to undertake whole-home energy upgrades to reduce their annual energy consumption.

CEWP has financed 500 comprehensive energy retrofits since 2009, demonstrating that homeowners will install comprehensive energy efficiency upgrades if they are offered a full package of services and benefits, including long-term financing and excellent customer service.

CEWP achieved the following results:

  • Average projected energy savings in space and water heating exceeded 50 percent.

  • Estimated carbon reductions of 1,500 annual metric tons.

  • Creation of over 30 full-time, entry-level weatherization jobs.

  • Work for nearly 400 workers that might not have had it otherwise.

  • Private investment of over $7 million (payments to contractors).

Given its success in promoting energy retrofits in the city, CEWP is now being scaled up into a statewide program, called Clean Energy Works Oregon (CEWO). In a March 2011 announcement, Portland Mayor Sam Adams said, “Today, the city of Portland celebrates the early success of the Clean Energy Works Portland pilot and welcomes the new Clean Energy Works Oregon. Though our Bureau of Planning and Sustainability led the way, we are grateful for the innovative collaboration from our many community partners, including Energy Trust of Oregon, Enterprise Cascadia, NW Natural, Pacific Power, PGE, Worksystems, Green for All and our host of stakeholders, including contractors, unions and community groups.”

The secret to the success of this city-led pilot was the combination of features and benefits that CEWP provided to consumers. Favorable financing, with 20-year loans at a 5.99 interest rate, is certainly a powerful incentive, but other program features made a difference, especially the program’s emphasis on customer service. Participating homeowners could rely on an independent, building science advisor, called an Energy Advocate. Repaying the loan was made more convenient by allowing homeowners to satisfy monthly loan requirements on their heating utility bill.

“I think it’s an excellent program, particularly the way it’s packaged. It was so effortless. I mean, it was dead easy. Just went down and signed the papers,” said Pilot Program Homeowner Patt Opdyke.

Portland/Multnomah County 2009 Climate Action Plan provided the policy framework for CEWP. Recognizing that financing was a key barrier to achieving retrofits and reducing emissions in existing buildings, the plan called for the establishment of a $50 million investment fund to provide low-interest financing for energy performance improvements. With an infusion of $1.1 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funding, CEWP was born.

Combined with other resources, the city capitalized the revolving loan fund for the full pilot program. In addition to creating 29 entry-level jobs in the hard-hit construction industry, established professionals gained new skills in green building, and 381 workers earned paychecks who otherwise may not have had work.

Portland’s Economic Development Strategy, which identified clean technology and sustainable industry as a critical cluster for local job growth, also provided policy direction and enabled the Portland Development Commission to invest additional local resources in CEWP.

Portland Pilot Basis for Statewide Program

Building upon its initial success, the city successfully secured $20 million in competitive EECBG funding to expand CEWP statewide. This larger effort, called Clean Energy Works Oregon (CEWO), seeks to retrofit 6,000 homes by 2013.

Retrofitting 6,000 homes will yield more than 17,000 annual metric tons of avoided emissions (522,000 metric tons of lifetime savings). These estimates are based on results from the first 375 homes, whereby the city’s 500-home pilot is expected to reduce GHG emissions by an estimated 1,500 annual metric tons (45,000 metric tons of lifetime savings), for savings of 2.9 metric tons per home annually.

“Clean Energy Works Oregon makes home energy efficiency affordable and easy,” said Clean Energy Works Oregon CEO Derek Smith. “As communities look to economic development through climate action, Clean Energy Works offers a proven, turnkey service that produces jobs, energy savings, carbon reductions and housing affordability.”

Clean Energy Works Oregon will work closely with the Energy Trust of Oregon, an organization that currently serves 1.5 million Oregon utility customers, will provide solutions and cash incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades for homes, businesses and industry. Specifically, Energy Trust is contributing the value of cash incentives for every eligible home that participates in Clean Energy Works.

Expanding to a statewide program is expected to attract $100 million in private capital to communities throughout the state. CEWO will be rolled out initially in the broader Portland area, followed by further expansion of the program throughout the state during 2011.

In discussing the benefits of the new program, Clackamas County Commissioner Ann Lininger said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for Clackamas County homeowners to join with others in the Portland area to improve energy efficiency, save valuable resources, help create jobs and decrease their own day-to-day living costs.”

For more information on the program, visit www.cewo.org.

This article is part of a Conference of Mayors series funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.