ACI's Energy Upgrade California, held January 10-11 in Los Angeles, presented a pretty good picture of how the Energy Upgrade California program will roll out across California. Currently an investor-owned utility (IOU) pilot program, it offers modest rebates for whole house improvements. There are a variety of rules and regulations, and paperwork, and processes that were all laid out pretty clearly at the conference. In addition, the local municipalities talked about their related programs and how they tie into Energy Upgrade California.

My overall impression of the incentive programs is that they are long on overhead and bureaucracy, and short on dollars. The maximum rebate is, I believe, about $4,000, not a lot of money for a whole-house retrofit. There are millions of state, federal, and utility dollars involved, but everyone in the food chain between the funding sources and the homeowner recipients is participating, each siphoning off their share for administration and management. It's a trickle-down kind of system. Everyone involved is quite proud to talk about how fantastic the programs are. I'll be interested in seeing, a year from, just how many homes have been upgraded and some metrics on the value of those upgrades.

In addition to retrofit program details, there were the usual ACI-type sessions: home performance, diagnostics, deep energy retrofits, basic building science, and so on. No big content surprises, but I always learn something new. A lot of content was geared towards contractors, but my impression is that less than half the attendees were actually licensed professionals. There were a lot more program and policy people than I expected.

My favorite presenter, who I saw for the first time, was Joe Kuonen. He's one those gnarly old guys that's been doing HVAC for decades. He's got loads of practical, common sense, diagnostic tips, and he's darn funny too. My kind of presenter.  EPA's Leif Magnuson presented a panel of specialists that had some very specific, detailed information about air-borne pollutants, VOCs, and other IAQ issues, including insulation testing. Essential information for anyone working with buildings. Other regular presenters included what I'm starting to think of as the California Home Performance Collaborative--Rick Chitwood, Gary Klein, Andy Wahl, Gavin Healy, and Dan Perunko.

If you are involved in any way in home performance, energy consulting, or construction, you should go to at least one ACI conference. They do regional events all year. The next national conference, their 25th, occurs March 28-April 1 in San Francisco.

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Comment by Glen Gallo on February 23, 2011 at 5:53pm

I would not go so far to call it detrimental. I would say they are definitely in a different circle than myself. Direct questions don't always produce direct answers. They have strong ideas about buisness and yet are not in buisiness. Some of them seem very self congratulatory in a forum such as this. I have had contact with local administrators and government program workers whom seem very sharp and willing to provide insight on programs.

 

I went to the conference for a number of reasons and one of them was to gain greater insight on the programs and those that are behind it.

 

While not my focus as a business plan I think it important to understand the rebates available for my customers. This can help to drive potential sales  toward my doorstep. While I cannot say I agree with everything they put forward, I hope to understand what they offer and how it can help me move forward toward as successful business. Furthermore I want to be a asset to help  build this industry to a viable asset that needs no government assistance.

 

I am not one to deny free help

 

Comment by Steve Mann on February 22, 2011 at 10:58am
Well, it's always good to hear what the people who manage the money are thinking, but in my opinion, they don't generally deliver much critical content. I'm more of a nuts and bolts, building science, construction assembly kind of guy. So, I guess the short answer is--detrimental but probably a necessary evil.
Comment by Glen Gallo on February 17, 2011 at 5:34pm

I found the conference informative. One gripe is I wish they allotted more time in the sessions. Many of them were too brief in my opinion. I am thinking about attending the San Francisco conference but have not committed at this time. I agree on the policy maker comment. It was interesting meeting some of them and hearing their ideas.

 

I am hopeful the Energy Upgrade California is a success.

 

I was a little surprised by a boiler room tele marketer who called my home about the program. When I asked a couple of question such as what is the name of the company and where are you located I was hung up on. I was disappointed to say the least. If this is the direction the program is moving the results could be dubious at best.

 

I should have scheduled an appointment.

 

 

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