Ready, set, retrofit
California is home to millions of homes and commercial buildings that are ripe for energy efficiency retrofits. But the key to tapping into all those potential megawatts of energy savings is figuring out how to get property owners to take the retrofit plunge.
That’s the aim of a soon-to-be-launched program called Energy Upgrade California. The $275 million project is a collaboration between state energy regulators, utilities, local governments and the private sector.
“The goal is to help residential and commercial building owners become knowledgeable about financing and rebates,” and to drive consumers and customers to a central resource, said Bob Aldrich, a spokesman for the California Energy Commission.
The program includes an online database, expected to be available in mid-January, that would consolidate information about government, utility and nonprofit residential retrofit programs. Information about commercial retrofits is expected to be added later in 2011. It would also allow homeowners to apply for rebates and financing through a single application, and include lists of contractors licensed to do retrofit work.
The program would address what Matt Golden, president of Recurve, a San Francisco home auditing and retrofitting startup, calls the “three pillars of efficiency:” Incentives, financing and performance standards. Recurve is participating in the pilot phase of Energy Upgrade California.
While the halting of Property Assessed Clean Energy financing programs have put a hitch in some state and local efforts to expand energy efficiency retrofits, the programs' demise needn’t slow down retrofits, Golden said.
“Financing is a key component, but it’s not the only component,” Golden said. “I believe rebates have a bigger impact than financing.”
While other states, including Oregon and Washington, are taking measures to increase energy efficiency retrofits, California's massive size offers offers an experiment in rolling out efficiency measures on a sweeping scale.
“California is a huge marketplace,” Aldrich said. “We’re almost like a country.”