Efficiency First California's Blog
You don’t need to spend a great of time deal in the policy world before you hear a conversation about workforce development. In fact, the Energy Upgrade California incentive program was originally created as a workforce development solution. Flashback to 2008, the Great Recession: contractors were out of work and the economy was in a downward spiral. The incoming Obama administration designed a program to stimulate the economy. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law February of 2009 and was intended to save existing jobs and create new ones. Lots of ARRA funds flowed into the energy efficiency industry and hopes were bright.
As the market for energy efficient buildings has grown, so has the need to measure and rate the effectiveness of upgrades and new home efficiency measures. Regulators, programs, and industry groups have come up with a number of rating systems to help inspect, calculate and compare a home’s energy performance.
Over the years, these models have become more and more complicated. The industry standard measure, Home Energy Rating System (HERS)—Whole House, not Compliance—currently requires hundreds of extremely detailed data points that use very expensive and sophisticated test equipment and it must be completed by a certified HERS whole home energy rater.
In my experience, contractors in the home performance field usually try to throw a wide marketing net to reach customers. They set up Google AdWords to target heating and cooling, insulation, and energy audit keywords because those seem like the only options. As Mike Rogers said “Don’t expect the words “home performance” to make your phone ring.”
Recently, California has made great progress in setting and charting a course toward ambitious energy and climate goals. There is, however, one huge regulatory and political roadblock that’s creating a barrier to achieving greater savings by blocking one of our most promising technologies: heat pumps.
For years the HVAC industry has relied on repeat visits to existing customers to generate new business. The service contract model is well tested and used by many because it works. The idea is pretty simple - sell annual service contracts to your customers and then check in on them twice a year to make sure their systems are in top operating condition. Most contractors visit their clients before the heating season and before the cooling season. Typically a technician performs routine services such as replacing filters and cleaning leaves and other debris out of the air conditioner’s outdoor unit.
I recently met up for lunch with a colleague of mine who owns a home performance company. He told me that his five-year plan is to either sell his company or start a franchise. I was happy to hear that he has a long-term plan, but when I started asking questions about his business I saw that there was a classic flaw in his plan.
The nature of this flaw became apparent when he was interrupted 5 or 6 times by phone calls and texts from staff and clients during our one hour lunch. I asked him if his phone was always that busy. He said that he was responding to issues and putting out fires non-stop throughout his day. “It’s probably the worst part of my job” he lamented.
Data is vital to every industry. In the world of home performance, data is needed by contractors, homeowners, real estate professionals, financiers, efficiency advocates and other stakeholders.
Many home performance experts invest substantial effort in tracking and analyzing their project data. In pursuit of excellence, they’re looking to learn from both successes and mistakes. Tracking data effectively, however, can be very time consuming. I believe that many more contractors would do so if they had a tool to make it fast and easy.
Data is the hard-earned cornerstone of a performance company’s credibility. Those who can communicate it effectively earn their client’s trust and respect, often winning work over their competition.
PG&E has sent out a request for proposals (RFP) to create a residential pay-for-performance (P4P) pilot incentive program for energy efficiency. Given the frequent changes and updates in efficiency rebate programs over the years, it could be tempting to easily dismiss this as just more of the same. In reality though, this new pilot is much more significant than you might realize. If you’re a contractor you need to pay attention--because this pilot could mark a real turning point for the industry.
As a contractor it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day operations and not give much thought to rebate programs other than what paperwork is currently required. For better or worse, these programs have become a fact of life. However, there are some real and significant changes happening in the energy efficiency industry today that have the potential to dramatically affect your business.
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