Tennessee’s WAP Teams Up with TVA to Reduce Operational Friction, Serve More
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), where I work as a senior manager, is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power companies serving nearly 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.
The Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) is Tennessee’s housing finance agency, created by the General Assembly in 1973. THDA was created to promote the production of more affordable new housing units for very low, low and moderate income individuals and families in the state, to promote the preservation and rehabilitation of existing housing units for such persons, and to bring greater stability to the residential construction industry and related industries so as to assure a steady flow of production of new housing units.
Like many Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) administrators across the country, THDA struggled to keep up with the abundance of data tracking and processing required by the program. Without a sophisticated information technology system, THDA’s two full-time employees trudged through a laborious, manual process to effectively monitor the activities of their 14 community agency partners spanning Tennessee’s 95 counties. Real-time data was non-existent and tracking systems captured redundant information, sometimes requiring double (or even triple) data entry, making it difficult for staff to monitor program operations on a timely basis.
Through our work with THDA’s Weatherization Advisory Committee, we at TVA learned about this dilemma and offered to help find a solution. As the nation’s largest public power company, TVA’s EnergyRight administers home energy upgrade programs in association with 154 local power companies across the Tennessee Valley region. Having faced similar problems with our own weatherization efforts, we united with their program delivery partners and vendors to develop an advanced, cloud-based data-tracking and program administration platform, eScore. Building off the highly successful eScore platform, TVA created WAPez, a state-of-the-art, end-to-end system bringing all WAP data and processes together seamlessly for the State and its agency partners.
Our experience building the eScore platform gave us the confidence that we could create WAPez for Tennessee WAP. We expect the new system to generate the same dramatic increases in efficiency we experienced in our market-rate home retrofit program.
WAPez: A One-Stop Shop
WAPez brings automation, analytics and real-time monitoring to every stage of the WAP process, from application intake through auditing, work order development, inspection, invoicing and administration. It seeks to reduce or eliminate paper files, make field and office operations more efficient, provide transparency to program operations, and capture all program data in a single database. TVA enlisted the help of CLEAResult and Energy Datametrics, its program delivery and information technology partners, to work with THDA to create the platform.
The resulting system increases capacity through operational efficiencies and provides a direct view into the program at the subgrantee and state levels. Subgrantees have instant access to view their own performance and the State has instant access to view program operations as a whole.
“I think WAPez is going to be a huge time-saver,” said Blake Worthington, housing program manager/energy for the Tennessee Housing Development Agency. “Weatherization has a lot of moving parts. There is always something going on with every unit. Conditions in units change. So there has to be good, strong communication between auditors and the local sub-grantees, and the contractors and the clients. Ultimately we spend a lot of time, just given the nature of the program, following up and making sure everyone knows where we are with each project.”
Priority point calculation and other routine tasks have been automated. Auditing tools have been greatly enhanced. Gone are the days of clipboard audits and re-entry into the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Audit Tool (NEAT) and Manufactured Home Energy Audit (MHEA) software. Auditors use an Android-based tablet to capture all audit data in the field. The data is automatically uploaded to the cloud and transferred to the appropriate DOE tool. By the time the auditors get back to their offices, the reports are waiting for them. Auditors can also run the DOE tools outside the office. Similar efficiencies have been gained for each step in the WAP process.
All auditors’ tablets include access to the WAPez software, training documents, client education forms, and Standard Work Specifications Field Guide. Auditors and inspectors can take photos in the field on their tablets or take photos on a camera and upload those photos using the WAPez web portal back at their office. All audit information can be seen at the state level in real time.
Field Tested and DOE Approved
Prior to launching WAPez across the state’s community agencies, TVA and THDA conducted extensive field tests in Memphis and Chattanooga, Tennessee. During this test phase, 200 homes were weatherized using WAPez.
THDA then received approval from DOE to use the WAPez platform for its state program. WAPez does not contain a proprietary “black box” audit tool. Rather, it is a smooth interface with the existing DOE NEAT and MHEA tools. The goal was to make the tools already widely utilized by WAP auditors easier to use and navigate.
Following the field tests, CLEAResult conducted training with all subgrantee agencies’ personnel. The WAPez platform became fully operational across Tennessee in July 2018.
WAPez has provided transparency into WAP operations for the State of Tennessee, which has enabled more efficient operations and funding management. Ultimately, this state-of-art platform is helping more people get the weatherization services they need.
Frank Rapleyis a Tennessee Valley Authority senior manager.
To find out more about the Tennessee Valley Authority, go to www.tva.com/About-TVA.
To learn more about WAPez, visit http://wapmadeeasy.com.
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