“Retrofitting Homes for Energy Efficiency in Portland”
An estimated 40 percent of carbon dioxide pollution in the United States comes from energy used in homes. In Portland, Oregon, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability wanted to provide homeowners an affordable opportunity to retrofit their homes with energy efficient upgrades, while also addressing issues of employment equity among residents and minority-owned businesses. Government, business, and non-profit partners came together to create Clean Energy Works Portland (CEWP), an innovative pilot program designed to provide energy upgrades to 500 Portland homes and cut energy consumption by 10 to 30 percent using an innovative financing model to eliminate steep upfront costs. In 2009, the City of Portland convened nearly 50 diverse stakeholders over a series of meetings to collaboratively draft a proposal for the CEWP financing structure, which Mayor Sam Adams ultimately presented to the City Council. The meetings included a cross section of individuals from a myriad of organizations and businesses that had a stake in the program’s proposed outcomes: private utility companies, the energy sector, workers’ unions, minority-focused apprenticeship programs, associations of minority contractors, and policy program designers. Facilitated by a mediator, stakeholders also developed a Community Workforce Agreement, which now serves as the City’s equity template that promotes better hiring standards to support marginalized communities. A first in the nation and a model for private-sector funded energy upgrades, the CEWP pilot facilitated 584 loans for whole home energy retrofits, resulting in a 20 percent or greater reduction of energy consumption in homes. Employment equity commitments provided employment for more than 400 workers, with their average wages surpassing $20/hour. Half of the hours worked were by minorities, while more than 20 percent of participating construction firms were operated by minority business owners.