Friday, February 27, 2009

Retrofit Biz

"...[E]xperts worry that...cities are not ready to oversee the huge sums of energy-efficiency money about to come their way."

Kate Galbraith,"Bright Lights, Big Budget: Nation Prepares for a Flood of Spending on Energy Efficiency," New York Times,February 26, 2009.

The stimulus package contains about $20 billion for energy efficiency, $5 billion to weatherize low-income homes, 30 times what they got last year. Since residential homes and commercial buildings account for upwards of 39 percent of energy consumption, the payoffs in energy savings could be big -- along with the jobs created and the holes filled in family budgets.

The challenge with expanding weatherization dollars is coping with the demands of "scale," a good problem, but a problem that can swamp the ill-prepared and be the source of embarrasing boondoggles.

Simply, residential weatherization involves high contact, high transaction contracting for small amounts of money in homes that frequently require lots of other work. Allowable investments per home will solve some of this problem, but weatherization sponsors will face problems related to recruitment, auditing, contracting, training, and quality assurance.

The question is whether sufficienct resources are on the table (or could be leveraged) to create viable intermediary organizations that could put all the pieces together, leverage other public and private resources, attract the private sector, and build career pathways that start with weatherization but that connect to construction apprenticeships in the long run.

Who has put all (or some)of these pieces together?

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