The Gist: A host of obstacles—from a confusing array of choices, to difficulties in obtaining financing, to “split incentives” between landlords and tenants—have stood in the way of realizing the economic potential of energy efficiency projects. What can state and local governments and agencies do to solve this puzzle? Sightline’s review of existing programs from around the region shows a way forward.

Green-Collar Jobs: Realizing the Promise—Energy Efficiency

Included in the report:

Put the pieces together. Businesses or homeowners need a reliable guide to help them scope out their projects, identify contractors, secure financing, and learn how to make the most of their efficiency upgrades. Programs should create or identify a single point of contact to fill those needs—and also to evaluate the success of retrofit strategies, compile the best information on efficiency strategies, set funding priorities, and connect labor needs with workforce training.

Focus on fairness. The best programs use economic and demographic data to target groups who need the most help—particularly working families, small businesses, and sectors hit by high unemployment.

Audit in and audit out. Efficiency retrofits in buildings should start with complete and objective energy audits, both before and after improvements are made. The first audit identifies which improvements yield the greatest savings and the second rates the effectiveness of the retrofit.

Make efficiency affordable. Retrofits and efficient appliances can be expensive up front; but over the long term, the savings on utility bills can more than pay for the up-front costs. Safe, smart financing solutions, such as low-interest loans and “on-bill” financing, can make retrofits affordable from day one.

Raise the standards. Cities can improve building codes, and require more efficiency for appliances in rental units. States can raise baseline energy efficiencies for electronics and other household items and protect wages by following federal “Davis-Bacon” rules to be sure green jobs pay a living wage.

Teach people. Efficiency is about people, not just buildings. Residents need training; otherwise, efficiencies (and dollars) can go to waste if buildings or appliances are operated improperly.

Related information:

December 2, 2009