This is the second in a series of articles which will take a closer look at some state and local programs which have excelled in rolling out American Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA) funds and rapidly ramped up their programs to meet the Obama Administration’s goals. States already highlighted: Ohio.
Colorado's income-qualified homeowners are benefiting from nearly $80 million over three years in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars. Paired with regular DOE weatherization dollars, the state is expected to direct more than $100 million to weatherizing thousands of homes over three years. The U.S. Department of Energy is highlighting the work of the Colorado Governor's Energy Office and its 11 local agency partners as setting the pace nationally for income-qualified weatherization work under the Recovery Act.
Colorado was third nationally in the number of homes weatherized in the first quarter of FY10. The state has now surpassed 2,000 homes completed since Recovery Act-enhanced work began July 1. To date, Colorado has weatherized 2,095 homes in 2009, of which about 1,194 were funded with ARRA dollars. Colorado received $ 79,531,213 in ARRA funds. The Colorado Governor’s Energy Office (GEO), which was initially created in 1977 to promote energy conservation in the state, administers the Colorado Weatherization Program. The stated mission of the GEO is to, “lead Colorado to a New Energy Economy by advancing energy efficiency and renewable, clean energy resources.”
The road has not always been smooth for the Program – some agencies had challenges early on. Kate Drexler, Weatherization Grants Manager of the GEO says, “Training newly hired workers turned out to take a lot more time and resources than had been planned, so production was compromised somewhat at the beginning of the year.” Similarly, the new reporting requirements and a new web-based reporting system caused some backlogs in file preparation and Davis-Bacon compliance. However, through training and managerial oversight, Colorado was able to rise above these early roadblocks. To ensure that local agencies performed quality work , Colorado encouraged comprehensive training, both of those in the field as well as administrative staff.
Over 100 employees have attended training for Building Shell Technicians and 20 auditor/inspectors have been trained. Colorado has conducted trainings on-site at each of their ten local weatherization agencies already this year. Currently, Colorado is selecting a third party trainer to deliver all field training through a combination of distributed, centralized, and online methods. This provider will largely focus on implementation of a ‘train the trainer’ model that emphasizes development of at least one local trainer within each weatherization agency who will provide ongoing field training to crews.
When asked for tips or techniques they have employed, Drexler highlighted a number of strategies and systems that can be attributed to their success. In terms of production management, Colorado has one staff person dedicated full time to monitoring production of their agencies. Agencies set their monthly production targets at the beginning of each year. Then, the state requires agencies to report the most current production figures on a weekly basis using a web-based reporting system, Focal Point. If an agency falls behind in their production, they are required to submit a revised production plan outlining how they plan to make up for this gap. All production reports are made public so that other agencies can see the performance of their colleagues.
In terms of outreach, Colorado has been very successful in growing their waiting lists through a strategic outreach plan. Says Drexler, “Since August, the waiting list has grown by 175%, currently boasting 2,400 qualified Colorado residents. This is mainly the result of targeted marketing and local networking with organizations that are connected to the low-income community. “
Drexler also attributes the success of CO to the local agencies and their weatherization crews in the field who make this work happen. Without their commitment and hard work, Colorado would not be able to serve as many families as we do. Through innovative solutions and oversight, Colorado has shown itself to be a leader in energy efficiency and a model for Programs nationwide. They truly showcase how Weatherization Works!
Source: Colorado Governor’s Energy Office http://www.colorado.gov/energy/