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Portland, Oregon

Clean Energy Works Oregon

Location: Portland, Oregon
Seed Funding: $20 million
Target Building Type: Residential
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View Presentations:
ACEEE National Symposium on Market Transformation April 2012
Green Jobs Forum February 2012

Clean Energy Works to Make Oregon Residences More Efficient and Comfortable

Oregon is known for its natural beauty and temperate Pacific Northwest climate. The state is also known for its long history of progressive energy policy that prioritizes energy efficiency. However, there are still more than 500,000 single-family, owner-occupied homes statewide that remain in need of weatherization.

With the help of $20 million in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, Clean Energy Works Oregon (CEWO) is working to help homeowners by simplifying and facilitating the transformation of Oregon's older houses into energy-efficient, comfortable homes.

Driving Demand: A Successful Pilot Leads to Statewide Program Launch
Financing: A Bundled Approach to Energy Remodels
Workforce Development: Workers Take the High Road

A Successful Pilot Leads to Statewide Program Launch

CEWO was born out of a successful pilot project in Portland, Oregon, that tested whether residents would be more likely to adopt energy efficiency upgrades if they were offered a comprehensive package of services and benefits. That comprehensive package included: low-cost, long-term financing to cover the upfront costs; assistance from an independent energy advisor; and the convenience of repaying monthly loan obligations through the utility bill.

Not only did pilot participants undertake deeper upgrades than their counterparts in other local energy efficiency programs, but they made the decision to take action more quickly. The pilot was responsible for completing 584 projects, creating low-cost loans for whole-home energy remodels, and helping to reduce energy consumption in most homes by 20% or more. The project employed 415 workers, including 51 new, entry-level hires in the construction trades. And 94% of participants surveyed said they would recommend the program to friends or family.

In March 2011, the pilot program ended, and CEWO began using what it learned in Portland to support and promote energy upgrades in Clackamas, Crook, Deschutes, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Multnomah, and Washington Counties. CEWO is transforming the market for home performance services through quality program delivery, financial product innovation, and excellence in customer and stakeholder relations. CEWO provides a one-stop shop for whole-home energy upgrades in regions throughout the state. CEWO is a proven engine for business development, job growth, and installed energy efficiency. What's more, participating energy efficiency contractors use marketing materials and messaging developed by CEWO to generate 35% to 40% of CEWO's new leads for energy efficiency upgrades.

A Bundled Approach to Energy Remodels

To make it easier to take on a home energy remodel, CEWO offers free home energy assessments (valued at $500). Homes that can achieve energy savings of 15% or more are eligible for a financing program that includes no-money-down annual percentage rates as low as of 5.5% for energy improvements including: air and duct sealing; high-performance attic, wall, and floor insulation; efficient heating and water heating systems; and high-insulating R-5 windows (an R-value is a measure of energy efficiency).

To help make sense of the evaluation and financing options, the program provides energy advisors to assist homeowners throughout the process and follow up with a quality assurance review once the work is complete.

The Portland pilot also identified obstacles to proceeding with energy remodels in older homes such as outdated wiring replacement, asbestos, and metal siding, among other issues. To remove these barriers, CEWO allows participants to apply between 20% and 49% of their loans (depending on the lender) to cover the costs of addressing these critical non-energy measures.

CEWO estimates that for every 100 projects completed:

  • 10 construction jobs are created
  • $1.4 million in economic activity is generated
  • $28,000 in annual energy costs are saved by homeowners

The program has four lending partners providing financing options for its customers in four service territories in Oregon. In the Portland Metro area, customers have the option of repaying loans on their utility bills. For many of these homeowners, the energy saved can offset a good portion of their loan payment.

Workers Take the High Road

All CEWO-approved professionals are trade allies of the Energy Trust of Oregon, are Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® qualified, and are certified through the Building Performance Institute (BPI). All energy advisors are BPI certified.

Clean Energy Works Oregon operates under a High Road Agreement, which helps to ensure inclusion of and economic equity for historically underrepresented communities and economically disadvantaged populations. Known originally as the Community Workforce Agreement, the High Road Agreement is a framework of workforce and community standards, targets, and benefits that can be used to measure, encourage, and promote success, as summarized below:

  • Requirements for contractor participation (e.g., local hire, paying family-supporting wages and hiring from designated training providers).
  • Incentives for meeting specific objectives (e.g., providing health care insurance, employing a diverse workforce, being or contracting with a historically underrepresented businesses, mentoring other contractors).
  • Support for approved and emerging contractors (e.g., training and continuing education resources, business classes, business coaching, peer mentoring, access to working capital, engagement and outreach efforts targeting underrepresented and economically disadvantaged contractors).
  • Resources for continuing education and certification are available to those coming into the home performance industry and to those ready for opportunities for promotion and upward mobility through career pathways and entrepreneurship training.

Thanks to its High Road Agreement, as of May 2012, CEWO reported nearly 60% of the more than 93,000 project work hours have been performed by women and minorities, and nearly half of all new hires have been woman and minorities. In addition, nearly 90% of the program's prime contractors offer subsidized health insurance to their employees.


Andria Jacob

U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program