PORTLAND — Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski hailed “a new approach to energy efficiency” after the state was awarded $20 million in Recovery Act funds for a program aimed at saving families and businesses money, creating green jobs and improving the environment.
Laborers, business owners and government officials joined Kulongoski in Portland to usher in Clean Energy Works Oregon, a large scale residential and commercial retrofit project.
“This is not just an environmental program; this is very much a jobs program,” said Susan Anderson, director of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
The project will be modeled off Clean Energy Works Portland, a pilot program which provides residents financing for energy efficiency upgrades with no upfront costs. Loans for projects ranging from hot water system improvements to insulation are repaid through utility bills. Energy consultants are assigned to residents to help them through the process.
Laborers, contractors, faith-based groups and community organizations throughout Portland signed an agreement designed to ensure the home retrofits meets standards and includes a diverse workforce.
“This program [Clean Energy Works Oregon] expands the successful work of the City of Portland, which has already been undertaken and started through their local residential efficiency pilot program and takes what they have learned, here, to other communities across our state,” Kulongoski said.
Kulongoski said the program represents a new way of thinking on energy efficiency. “Instead of scattered projects, this approach is centralized; targeting entire communities.”
This approach will “take energy efficiency to scale,” and “help move the whole marketplace,” Anderson said.
The benefit, Kulongoski said, will be “that we drive energy savings at a more accelerated and aggressive rate, increasing the property values in that community and saving individual business owners and homeowners money.” The reduced energy use will also provide “a greater benefit for our environment,” he said.
Gil Sperling, senior adviser to Assistant Secretary of Energy Cathy Zoi, praised the “unprecedented partnership” between local, state and federal government, nonprofits and businesses that helped make Clean Energy Works Oregon a reality. “We have people who hadn’t typically talked to each other who are now working together for months on specific programs and specific plans.”
Kulongoski said the State of Oregon has “a strong relationship with the private sector.”
“They are our partners and they have shown that good environmental policy can be good business practices,” he added.
Officials hope the program’s success will serve as a model for the rest of the country. “Once we retrofit our first community, we can show on a large scale that upfront investments in energy efficiency upgrades do pay off quickly, helping to inspire other communities to invest in energy efficiency which will grow the market and create a new demand for jobs in this industry,” Kulongoski said.
“This is about putting people back to work,” said Oregon State Rep. Jules Bailey.
Oregon and the City of Portland were among the 25 winners of an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) by the U.S. Department of Energy designed to ramp up energy retrofits throughout the country.