In response to a congressional inquiry, the Department of Energy (DOE) released interesting data about sixteen of the 2010-2013 DOE Weatherization Innovative Pilot Projects. The projects totaled $30 million, and were categorized in four areas of innovation:
1. Alternate financing approaches;
2. Green and healthy home initiatives;
3. New technologies and techniques; and,
4. Workforce development and volunteer labor projects.
The Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO), in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, directed an initiative in partnership with PPL (the Pennsylvania-based electric utility) that tested new in-home technologies. The pilot met its performance targets under budget and leveraged even more funding than it had planned. In fact, this project was the only one that met both its production goal and its leveraging goal at or under budget.
Other successful projects of note include: New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, which focused on new mobile home upgrades and installation by six CAAs, and Youth Build USA and People Working Cooperatively, Ohio, both of which tested volunteer labor initiatives.
Some pilots fell short of both production and leveraging goals, and were therefore unable to spend all their funding. Habitat for Humanity International weatherized fewer than 44 percent of the planned homes and returned nearly half the funds awarded. Its planned leveraging through donations and volunteer labor fell 68 percent short of goal. They spent an average of $9,281.00 per home weatherized.
Four out of six projects that were testing creative WAP financing returned all or most of their funds. Stewards of Affordable Housing, based in the District of Columbia, struggled with multi-family housing projects, as did the City of Danville, Virginia. Furthermore, after failed attempts at loan projects involving multiple new statewide partners, Utah and Washington state Weatherization offices returned all of their funding. In all, more than a third of the funding allocated to innovations was returned unspent.
Creating new implementation strategies based on the innovative pilots will not be possible until a more detailed report is released. DOE officials have assured us this information will be released with national evaluations of both the pre-ARRA and the ARRA programs. Based on our conversations, we believe DOE is considering an early August date to make those materials public.
The Weatherization Program needs refreshing. We know that there are policy, funding and technology options that were unimaginable in 1979.We are eager to have access to evidenced-based findings that will counter badly designed analyses. But more importantly, we are eager to let this evidence serve as a foundation for proposing a next-gen WAP to Congress.