Saturday, August 30, 2014

Program Overhead Costs Killing Weatherization

In Oregon, program Clean Energy Works Oregon , has overhead cost of at least $5000 per home "served." $20,000,000 of "stimulus" money from US Dept Of Energy Better Buildings Neighborhood Program  has been squandered in 3200 homes. That is administration cost wrongly, illegally ,  not subjected to required cost/ benefit tests. Money spent in program administration only. None employed in the involved loans to home owners to actually, perhaps, do some good. $20 million/ 3200 = $6250 per. $5000? Well, maybe CEWO still had some of the $20 million left when stupidly given another year or so of life in a $10 million illegal gift of State of Oregon funds. Such administration cost looks a little less outrageous if a project costs at least $20,000, so CEWO will push needless furnace upgrades, windows that don't save money, a big photovoltaic array, whatever it takes. If your bid doesn't measure up, say coming in at only $14,000, your contractor, so used to all the fat-to-be-skimmed, won't really be interested. If you buy into one of these bad deals, you will never recover your investment in savings. Paying off your big fifteen year loan at 6% interest, you might not be able to afford things you really need in retaining a home: safe wiring, working plumbing, a sturdy roof, protective paint. It may be all of your maintenance budget, and a lot more, in the hands of that self-biased, hard-selling-schmooz "weatherization" general contractor.

CEWO is not alone in the maladministration. USDOE tells stories of its actions to grow the map, including taught deceptive marketing, gifts of stupid blower doors and more. Good deals need only publicity, never a hard sell.

Weatherization not done well, and so very expensively, is then being reconsidered. Should we just call it quits? Have we already plucked enough of the low-hanging fruit? Sadly, people even including our well intentioned Oregonian reporter , take that question seriously. In fact, we have hardly begun to weatherize our homes. Our wastefulness is growing. New homes are still built with energy bleeds including dozens of leaky incandescent or halogen can lights. More large attic floor defects are hidden every day, under spotty blankets of obstructive loose-fill insulation. Energy is cheap. Cheapest labor and materials must be found. Who cares? We are confused by the counterfeit, rationed weatherization for a random few.

In contrast to the cruel mindset of CEWO contractor-participants, please consider my experience in what a good insulation job should cost.

There is no place in the CEWO, Better Buildings, HPwES, BPI scheme, for the real job opportunities. Among the real job opportunities, each is to be done with full diligence . Instead, it is taught that a $3000 or more purchased BPI-liar certificate is prerequisite, creating a moat about those few, honored participants in the scam. Those participants dominate a badly shrunken and demoralized weatherization workforce, lacking pride. Those working outside the system then are unregulated and fully untrained. A few may be like me, just behaving with better morality, inventing the needed self-education.

Please know that 42 of my 104 insulation jobs include the creative work of inventing safe access with an insulated and gasketed ladder . On average, insulation is less than one third of job cost. Publicly-supported weatherization should provide for the access cost. It should also permit home owners, not those pocketing weatherization Generals, to hire heating contractors, electricians, roofers and perhaps a few other specialists, for associated prerequisite repairs else neglected. We have a common interest in the health of our homes. When someone suffers and must watch an investment decay, no one benefits.

The wastefulness of CEWO and other Better Buildings programs seems awful, but may the standard programs of Oregon's Energy Trust under our Public Purpose Fund, have even higher perceived overhead? The hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Energy Trust shall be strongly focused on residential energy efficiency. Consider the following Energy Trust statement in 2008 :

Market value of savings/generation (2002-2008)

Because of Energy Trust programs, electric utility customers use less fossil fuel generated
power and have lower utility bills. As of 2008, the electric bill savings from customers
participating in Energy Trust programs is estimated at $132 million a year. By sector, the
savings are:
Residential $ 60.5 million
Commercial $ 32.9 million
Industrial $ 38.6 million

Because of Energy Trust programs, natural gas utility customers use less gas and have lower utility bills. As of 2008, the savings on gas bills from customers participating in Energy Trust programs is estimated at $11.9 million a year. By sector, the savings are:
Residential $ 6.7 million
Commercial $ 5.2 million
Industrial $ 0.17 million

The total combined savings value to customers stemming from Energy Trust programs is $144 million annually as of 2008.

About half of Energy Trust's expenditure of Public Purpose Fund money shall have related to residential energy efficiency. Say $20 million are spent each year in the cause of residential weatherization, using numbers at program onset in 2002. If only 800 homes per year are served , that is an overhead of $25,000 per home engaged. Am I wrong? Shouldn't Energy Trust and its enabling Oregon Public Utilities Commission be deeply, deeply ashamed?

The answer to high overhead per home served is to increase the number of homes served by a needed number of times-fifty . How shall we do this? That is what the OPUC should be talking about at a hearing approximately September 30, 2014 . Will they?

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