Why I refuse to participate in Energy Upgrade California

When I first heard of Energy Upgrade California I was excited. Energy upgrade packages for existing homes with rebates sounded awesome. I attended the ACI conference in LA which was the kick off. The event was interesting as we heard from program developers of how the program would be initiated. I also attended some orientation sessions at the CCSE. I liked what I heard. As my business is primarily residential repairs and upgrades I thought this would be a perfect fit.

What I have found is the program is not what I expected.  I have sat on the sidelines refusing to critique or participate in the system. I think I have given it a long enough run and now I will explain my concerns.

The upgrades are consistent with Energy Pro calculations that estimate energy savings. Now to be fair I know a base has to be somewhere and Energy Pro is certainly a capable program. But the estimates are just that estimates. Living in San Diego and having the most mild climate makes modeling savings a challenge. While our money from the Utilities and the State of California is taken at the same percentages our rebates are severely compromised. We get less of the pie but no less of our contribution to this pie. This is simply not fair.

The system is very much geared toward equipment. An example would be that often duct sealing and air sealing have very low margins but replacing a HVAC has a high bar. Water Heater upgrades from the standard tank to a tank less have large margins. These margins often do not reflect real world savings.

Those that do not currently have HVAC and are looking to replace legacy furnaces and upgrade to AC see no benefit as an AC system was not in place to begin with and therefore may not be modeled. Because of this they might chose a less efficient model based on the rules of the program which is not the spirit of the program in my mind.

Work scope is controlled by an outside group. As a contractor this is what I find really problematic. I have to stand behind a  work scope not of my nor my customers choosing. My initial audit is rendered useless as  program administrators duplicate the same process and then provide me with the accepted work scope. This duplicity makes no sense and our tax/utility dollars are wasted in the process. The original audit should simply be performed by the outside service if they control the work scope. Furthermore as the contractor I am married to a work scope that I might not agree with and responsible 100% of any liabilities that might arise in the future. I personally am not comfortable with such as system.

I must note that is not the CCSE I am criticizing.  I have always held a high opinion of CCSE here in San Diego and still do. The staff has always been responsive and eager to help. They have provided training classes and opportunities to connect with other professionals. They still provide this high level service as well as countless others. They listen to concerns and attempt to be as proactive as they can. I would have been far more comfortable with them running the program which sadly is not the case.

 

As we move forward control of such programs to ensure that tax/rate payer dollars are not wasted, upgrades are performed and provide reasonable work scope is imperative.  However having a quasi government organization with autocratic control over the entire program and 100 percent QA does not seem like a wise way to proceed in the future.  Furthermore rebates and contributions should be equitable and not slanted by weather. This system is sadly broken

In conclusion I choose not to participate and see no reason to in the future. 

 

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Comment by Nate Adams on October 29, 2013 at 4:37am

Thanks for posting, Glen! Good points.

Comment by tedkidd on October 26, 2013 at 9:27am

Glen,

I know some great folks at CPUC and CEC.  Dedication is not something I'd say they are lacking.  

One challenge is the advice they get doesn't connect back to the transaction, to what happens at the kitchen table.  So instead of lubricating that critical step they create friction points.  Another problem is they confuse and conflate their objectives, attempt to pile on other objectives in the wrong order.  Finally, to really get consumer trust there must be truth about what is delivered, and all these programs seem to do is talk about meaningless numbers as if they measure success and hide the important numbers that show what failures they are.  Without some willingness to acknowledge the truth that things are really broken, we can't get to fixing those things.  

I've put together a treatise on how to simplify incentive so it is simple and works for everyone.  

http://bit.ly/TrustTransparencyTruth

Kansas has what looks to be a fantastic program.  Some aspects could be a template for the nation: 

http://bit.ly/SOOOsmart

(Context, for other readers - I sent this to Glen directly: 

Nice post Glen!!
You might get a kick out of this essay on Perverse Incentive - http://bit.ly/X40qFn
And this slideshow of Mike Rogers: http://bit.ly/hppdesignMikeR
It's counterproductive to turn down the volume at the same time you are trying to turn it up.)
Comment by Glen Gallo on October 26, 2013 at 9:12am

Thanks Ted,

I really liked the article. 

I must admit that one of the administrators of EUC reached out to me. They want to make the program work. I am sure it is a challenge to please everyone and they have guidelines set to please more than just me. I get that but the project would have to be fairly specific for me to work in their guidelines.

I guess the real challenge is to get the bus there on time and pick folks up which is the intention. 

Comment by tedkidd on October 25, 2013 at 2:25pm

Accountability without authority.  Not very satisfying work unless you get paid for administration.  Good gig then as others suffer blame and poor results for your work, and you get a big paycheck and pension.  

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