In 2008, Kansas City, Missouri, formally adopted a Climate Protection Plan with greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020 and 2050 and specific energy efficiency recommendations. Using $20 million in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, the City of Kansas City launched EnergyWorks KC in 2010 to amplify its energy efficiency efforts.
EnergyWorks KC adopted a regional approach to residential and commercial upgrades, initially focused on six neighborhoods and the city’s Green Impact Zone. The program raised local awareness and capacity for energy upgrades and laid the groundwork for a long-term shift toward improved energy performance in the region.
EnergyWorks KC recruited a number of partners to accomplish its goals. The city contracted with the Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) and utilized MEC’s existing Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® (HPwES) framework to serve as the primary administrator of all energy efficiency services. The city also contracted with Bridging The Gap (BTG), a Kansas City-based environmental nonprofit organization, to implement a water conservation initiative within the EnergyWorks KC program. The Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), the local planning agency and regional council of governments, was brought on to pursue regional clean energy policy opportunities and develop workforce training and educational programs. Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) joined the EnergyWorks KC team as the primary lender for energy-related financing mechanisms. Local partners, utility companies, and contractors were also closely engaged in the program.
EnergyWorks KC provided a series of rebates and incentives for both residential and commercial building owners, which were augmented by an array of low-cost financing offerings supported by a revolving loan fund and an interest rate buy-down fund. Read more in the EnergyWorks KC final report.
EnergyWorks KC took a comprehensive, partner-oriented approach to building a market for energy efficiency improvements in metropolitan Kansas City.
- Residential and Commercial Program Design: Building on the HPwES program, EnergyWorks KC simplified and standardized contractor expectations and program criteria and leveraged existing relationships with utility companies and local partners. The program initially targeted the existing Green Impact Zone and six additional neighborhoods that were perceived as having great potential for energy savings but limited capacity to handle a large increase in demand for energy upgrades. The program was later expanded city-wide. Participating contractors used Green Compass/Surveyor software to submit energy assessments, conduct building energy modeling, and track the effectiveness of energy services.
- Marketing and Outreach: The city developed the marketing strategy for EnergyWorks KC with input from MEC, MARC, BTG, and a marketing consultant. Marketing materials were distributed to homeowners, businesses, and institutions, available at community events, and provided to home energy assessors and participating contractors for use with homeowners. EnergyWorks KC advertised via radio, television, billboards, the Internet, social media, community events, and educational games and contests. These advertisements featured information on the energy program and its array of available financial incentives. Trained customer service representatives, many of whom were residents of the communities they served, conducted one-on-one outreach in neighborhoods, lending credibility to the energy upgrade process. In 2012, EnergyWorks KC was awarded the international Platinum Award for MarCom Best Integrated Media Program and international Bronze Award for Best Integrated Digital Print and Web Program.
- Financing: EnergyWorks KC provided two loan loss reserve funds, a revolving loan fund, and an interest rate buy-down fund. Initial financing efforts focused on building loan loss reserve capacity, but this approach was not accepted by the lending community. Because of limited private lender participation, EWKC began working with Neighborhood Housing Services as its primary lender. In addition, EnergyWorks KC offered unsecured energy efficiency loans, along with performance-based rebates to supplement those already available through the local HPwES program. EnergyWorks KC developed the program’s energy efficiency financing products and incentives in cooperation with a range of stakeholders—including city representatives, financial institutions, and participating contractors—and adapted these offerings to maximize their accessibility to homeowners, businesses, nonprofits and churches. EnergyWorks KC also developed a relationship with the Clinton Climate Initiative and implemented its Home Energy Affordability Loan (HEAL) Program concept for employers to help employees to obtain home energy upgrades.
- Workforce Development: MARC, working with MEC and four local community college partners and the Full Employee Council, provided training opportunities for an array of EnergyWorks KC stakeholders. Customer service representatives from the targeted neighborhoods were trained in sales, marketing, and customer service. Energy assessors and contractors received Building Performance Institute and installation trainings, along with sessions on the use of Green Compass/Surveyor and Salesforce software. Special trainings for lead and asbestos abatement, construction safety, and hazardous materials handling were offered to contractors. Unemployed or underemployed workers in the area also received training and certification. Energy efficiency education was offered to real estate agents and brokers, college students, and environmental remediation and hazardous materials specialists. One green jobs initiative led to the creation of Reclaim KC, a reclaimed lumber processing business that began as a partnership between the MEC and Kansas City Kansas Community College.
In Kansas City, changes in economic conditions and stakeholder relations challenged program expectations. EnergyWorks KC adapted a number of program elements, from marketing strategies to financing offerings, based on changing circumstances and the lessons learned along the way, including:
- Build off existing programs and partnerships. EnergyWorks KC streamlined its operations by using the existing HPwES program infrastructure. This strategic positioning enabled the program to build off existing partnerships and use existing standards for contractors and assessors. It also solidified the existing working relationship with the local investor owned electric utility, Kansas City Power and Light Company (KCP&L).
- Develop close relationships with primary stakeholders. Energy efficiency programs require the close coordination of numerous partners and interests. Program staff connected with stakeholders throughout the process to better understand program elements from varying perspectives. For example, relationships with contractors helped developed the basis for contractor-supported modifications in program design that increased productivity.
- Provide ongoing training sessions. As the workforce grows and circumstances change, it may be necessary to offer ongoing training development sessions. This is particularly true if major program elements are changed, such as the technical procedures or financing offerings.
The momentum built from EnergyWorks KC will support the continued growth of the area’s energy efficiency sector and help Kansas City continue to reach its climate protection targets.
- The revolving loan and interest rate buy-down funds launched under EnergyWorks KC have been extended and will continue to finance energy efficiency improvements in the area.
- The City Energy Project (CEP), a 10-city initiative of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation, launched in Kansas City in 2014 to reduce citywide energy use by 5%. CEP, a partnership of KCMO, KCP&L, and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, is promoting energy efficiency in commercial and institutional buildings through benchmarking, challenge programs, awards, and financing mechanisms.
- The connection between Kansas City and DOE’s Building Buildings Program will continue through the Energy Data Accelerator (EDA) Initiative, a partnership of KCMO and KCP&L. Working in conjunction with the Kansas City Energy Project, EDA will experiment with several models of aggregating data in multi-metered buildings.