The Balancing Act - Cost Effectiveness And Achieving program goals

Many utilities who’ve invested in energy efficiency are facing more and more pressure to achieve what the energy industry calls, cost effectiveness. There are many other wise souls in this industry who are tackling the very large, complex issue of making cost effectiveness more…well, effective (which you can read about here, here, and here). But I want to talk about the world as it exists today. 

Home Performance, HVAC QI, or any programs that require contractor businesses to adjust their business model and invest time and money take time to show impact. A panel discussion at ACI California a couple of years ago showcased some of the “veteran” home performance companies. When asked if they felt like they’d arrived, and fully integrated home performance, all of them said no. Some of them had been at it for 6-10 years. The point is NOT that it doesn’t work. The point is that it takes a lot of time to navigate the maze of adding services, training staff, developing accurate pricing, retooling the sales process, etc. Contractor companies must invest time and resources to make it work. And if you’re designing or running a residential EE program, it’s important to consider this in the design. It’s not about having more, it’s about using the program dollars wisely to help build up the market place. Some data I’ve seen shows that it can take a contractor 6-9 months to submit 1 job to a home performance program after completing the enrollment process. It takes up to 18 months for them to start generating any volume. 
Cost effectiveness is an important issue, and it’s some thing that weighs heavily on the back of program administrators when designing and running programs. By adding value to contractor businesses, and helping them navigate the business challenges they face when moving toward changing their business processes, you increase the likelihood of reaching your program goals. And, what I care about, reduce carbon emissions and make homes safer and more comfortable. Whatever your motivation, by providing more than just program participation support and a big penalties for doing some thing out of compliance, consider offering business mentoring, access to training, and other things that add value to their business. If it works for your contractors, it will work for you.