Initiative hosts green summit to grow residential energy saving efforts in low-wealth communities

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April 30, 2013 – The N.C. Community Development Initiative brought together leaders of the environmental and community economic development sectors April 29 for a summit on residential energy efficiency. 

Participants shared community-based models and began discussions about creating and sustaining long-term markets for residential energy efficiency in North Carolina.

“These approaches to increasing residential energy efficiency have been carried out in isolation, and the opportunity for a comprehensive community-based approach has not been explored,” said LaVett Saddler, the Initiative’s program officer for innovations, who coordinated the summit. “This convening allows us to bring together brilliant thinkers from different sectors to build relationships and explore ways to use energy efficiency programs to create jobs and save people money.”

The summit kicked off with presentations from two Initiative community partners who received Green Grant investments or Innovation Fund investments to develop replicable models for residential energy efficiency programs that are effective in low-income communities. The models were Clean Energy Durham’s neighborhood energy organizing and education prototype and Green Opportunities’ green economy job training and placement program for hard-to-employ young people in Asheville.

The two programs have been successful in their local markets, but the uncertain market for energy efficiency services in other communities and lack of upfront capital has made them difficult to replicate.

Key stakeholders from the community development, energy and environmental sectors discussed the need for successful programs to adjust their business models to continue without federal funds for energy efficiency work, which are rapidly evaporating.

The Initiative used the opportunity to share and get feedback on the challenges and opportunities for scaling these energy efficiency efforts in North Carolina and in bringing services to the untapped affordable housing and multi-family housing markets.

Participants concluded the summit by proposing next steps, including:

  • Inviting stakeholders in the healthcare and finance industries to the conversation.
  • Designing programs that incorporate energy audits and include deliverable outcomes for consumers and businesses.
  • Working toward building residential energy efficiency programs that are self-sustaining.
  • Leveraging existing resources and building on successful programs that have been created, rather than duplicating services.

“We’ve been able to be opportunistic because there was so much opportunity out there, and without that coming again and again, we really have to set our course,” said Torin Kexel, building performance director for Green Opportunities. “I didn’t come away [from the summit] with a clear answer on what’s next but I definitely have a lot of names and faces that I want to follow up with to think about how we work together to plan some next steps. I know that there’s a lot to learn from, and what I plan to do is just keep learning and keep looking for the pathway forward.”

The N.C. Community Development Initiative leads North Carolina’s collaborative community economic development effort, driving innovation, investment and action to create prosperous, sustainable communities. For more information, visit www.ncinitiative.org.

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