Thanks to Danielle Sass Byrnett and the U.S. Department of Energy for sharing this piece on their new Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center!
Efficiency Maine’s transition to a sustainable level of home performance incentives is one of nearly 1,000 examples, strategies, and resources making up the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) new Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center. This one-stop shop for residential energy efficiency programs contains guidance, templates, videos, and more that describe lessons learned from program administrators, implementers, and contractors who have operated across the country.
Over the past 4 years, more than 9,000 Maine households have completed energy upgrades through Efficiency Maine’s Home Energy Savings Program (HESP). Launched as a rebate offer in 2010 to drive consumer and contractor awareness and participation, Efficiency Maine’s HESP has been exploring different approaches to transitioning from rebate-focused offerings to financing-focused options that better align with its limited budget.
Modest, strategic incentives helped to maintain consumer demand and contractor activity when rebate funds were initially exhausted in 2011. Affordable financing became a larger selling point for those participating in the program. While the number and size of rebate-motivated upgrades decreased, the size of financed upgrade projects increased. Efficiency Maine has since introduced new incentives targeted at achieving specific objectives, including improving assessment-to-upgrade conversion rates, ensuring quality work, and improving program data collection.
According to Efficiency Maine’s residential program manager Dana Fischer, designing the appropriate incentive level for programs is often as much art as it is science. “The incentive needs to be high enough to make something happen, but you need to understand what it is that you actually want to have happen. If you’re just offering 30% of the cost of a project, there are all kinds of things that you may or may not be incentivizing. Understanding your objective in offering an incentive helps to sort through how rich your incentives should be and how to structure them,” he said.
Through the work of Efficiency Maine, other Better Buildings Neighborhood Program partners, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Sponsors, utility-sponsored programs, and other initiatives, hundreds of communities across the country have been working to promote energy efficiency upgrades in homes and multifamily buildings. To share the innovations and lessons learned from these efforts, DOE has compiled the Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center.
Solution Center Handbooks Provide Step-by-Step Guidance
The Solution Center is available in a series of handbooks that contains step-by-step guidance on how to plan, operate, and evaluate a residential energy efficiency program and resources such as tools, calculators, publications, videos, presentations, and case studies. Solution Center users can find information on: