White House Supply Chain Event Shows Weatherization Impact

On June 15th, the White House, working with the National Association for State Community Services Programs and Alliance For The Other America, hosted an event to showcase the economic impact of the businesses that together make up the supply chain for the federal Weatherization Assistance Program.

Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the US Department of Energy, noted that over one million homes have been weatherized in the past three years under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), creating hundreds of dollars of savings for affected households, as well as direct jobs, increased demand for
products used to test and retrofit buildings, and contributing greatly to the growth of a skilled workforce for this work going forward.

The Weatherization program, which began more than 35 years ago during the oil shortage of the 1970s, helps low-income Americans reduce their energy costs and use while improving their health, safety and comfort in their homes through energy efficiency.

The White House event focused not only on Weatherization production statistics but also on the economic, technological, and research contributions that the program and individuals working in it have made to energy efficiency, and the living conditions of low-income households, over the years.

Speakers from the Energy Conservatory and Monroe Infrared Technology, manufacturers of equipment used diagnose and identify locations where buildings are losing heat or where air pressure conditions lead to unhealthful conditions, described how their products have evolved and improved through their use in the Weatherization Assistance Program, and their plans to maintain that growth.  Maryland contractor Hawkeye Construction recognized business opportunities in taking Weatherization work to scale and reported on its success.  Several participants noted the increased numbers of multifamily weatherization projects performed during the Stimulus period, including those outside of urban areas.

A Q & A period followed the panelists’ presentation. AEA executive director Dave Hepinstall was among those attending the event and urged DOE staff and other federal officials to seek ways to maintain the greater focus on weatherizing multifamily, affordable housing nationally under ARRA, to drive increased energy savings in this sector.

Despite the funding challenges ahead, those familiar with the Weatherization Assistance Program’s long history of performance-based funding and reliance on small, local contractors know the entrepreneurial spirit and drive that fuels this unique government funded program.  Since its creation in the 1970s, the Weatherization Assistance Program has funded projects based on firm production goals and performance.  This structure and the local economic benefits that stem from it have made Weatherization many friends whose views are distributed along a wide portion of the political spectrum.

The long-term economic benefits of Weatherization is another reason for the support this program has enjoyed.  Experienced State officials and members of both houses of Congress recognize that low-income occupants of weatherized homes find it easier to manage with less government assistance because their heating and electric bills consume less of their disposable income, leaving more for other necessities.

Still, contractors, suppliers, manufacturers and weatherization staff alike recognize that public recognition of the value of Weatherization, with its twin benefits to communities and to small business, cannot be taken for granted and that public awareness of the Weatherization Assistance Program’s contributions is not great.  That is one challenge we are all prepared to address.

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