Collaborative Aims to Boost Momentum for Home Energy Efficiency Upgrades in the Southwest

February 26, 2013
March/April 2013
A version of this article appears in the March/April 2013 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
Click here to read more articles about Home Performance with Energy Star

In 2011, Gavin Hastings, an Arizona Public Service (APS) program manager, began envisioning a collaborative that would advance the Home Performance with Energy Star (HPwES) programs in his region.

HPwES provides whole-house solutions for homeowners, offering increased comfort and energy savings via qualified contractors trained on building science principles. More than 200,000 homeowners nationwide have participated in the HPwES program through their local state energy office, utility company, or nonprofit agency sponsor. Though the program as a whole has been a success, Hastings believed that the program’s potential for more growth was much greater in the Southwest than it was elsewhere.

Total Annual Potential Residential Electricity Savings in 2020 by Program If Best Practices Programs Are Implemented

Figure 1. The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project conducted an analysis on reaching 20% efficiency savings by 2020. These 10 model residential efficiency programs need to be implemented to reach the goal.

HPwES Completions in the Southwest, 2009–11

Figure 2. Only two official HPwES programs were active in the southwest in 2009. By 2011, five HPwES programs were active, significantly increasing jobs completed.

Hastings remembers a homeowner in Sun City, Arizona, who could walk from one side of his house to the other and feel the change in temperature. That homeowner took advantage of APS’s HPwES program and learned from the contractor that an A/C unit was pumping equal amounts of cold air into the house and attic. Once the ducts were sealed, the homeowner could immediately feel the difference in the comfort of his home, and he enjoyed lower utility bills.

There are so many homes like this with energy efficiency issues, Hastings realized, and so much money that homeowners could save, that he decided to take action to ramp up the reach of the program.

Collaboration Builds Consistent, Streamlined Programs

“Collaboration is something that the industry needs now more than ever,” Hastings says. “APS is working to expand the home performance marketplace, and along the path we realized that one program or even one state is not significant enough to drive the dramatic leap forward that the entire industry needs.”

Hastings believes that effective programs must be streamlined and consistent across utility territories and governmental jurisdictions in order to transform the home energy marketplace. So in 2012 he partnered with the national HPwES program and me, a buildings efficiency program associate at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), to create the Southwest Home Performance Collaborative (SW Collaborative). With assistance from the national HPwES program, Hastings and I immediately enrolled our peers from utilities, state and local home energy efficiency programs, and program implementation contractors. Today, the collaborative includes home energy program managers and professionals from six states: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The group meets regularly by phone to share what works, discuss national program standards, and build momentum for home energy efficiency upgrades in the Southwest.

Home Retrofits Achieve Significant Energy Savings

A recent report released by SWEEP, “The $20 Billion Bonanza: Best Practice Electric Utility Energy Efficiency Programs and Their Benefits for the Southwest,” found that home retrofits can achieve a significant amount of electricity savings (see Figure 1). The findings indicate a cost of only $0.02/kWh for home retrofit programs, compared to $0.08-$0.12/kWh to supply electricity to households.

Back in 2010, before the collaborative was established, almost $80 million was allocated by the largest utilities in the Southwest for residential retrofit efforts, but HPwES programs had a very small slice of that budget. At that time, only two official HPwES programs were being offered by utilities in the region—Arizona Public Service and Xcel Energy. Other programs were much more limited, mostly offering single-measure rebates for insulation and air sealing, refrigerators, lightbulbs, and a few other measures. Since then, three additional home-performance programs have been offered by nonprofits and government—HomeFree Nevada, Four Corners for Resource Efficiency (4CORE) in Colorado, and the state of Utah program—and as yet no new programs have been offered by utilities. Overall almost 300 contractors are now part of the program in the Southwest area. 

Increased Public Awareness Leads to More Home Retrofits

By 2011, studies revealed that public awareness of the Energy Star label exceeded 80%. With increased awareness building momentum for the Energy Star label, three new HPwES programs were established by the close of 2011. Figure 2 illustrates the significant increase in HPwES completions as a result of the new program activity.

The collaborative’s early success caught the attention of Ely Jacobsohn, the HPwES program manager for DOE. “The Energy Department is pleased to be working with the collaborative in the Southwest and to see the progress in developing their local market for home performance services,” says Jacobsohn. “Through the efforts of the Southwest sponsors, we are witnessing a growing certified workforce and an increase in HPwES projects which, ultimately, is helping homeowners and moving the nation toward a more energy-efficient economy.”

Collaborative Is a Voice for the Southwest

While national home performance groups have a strong presence in the United States, the SW Collaborative tackles issues and opportunities specific to one region of the country. Despite differences between the states’ energy policies and programs, they share similar climates, housing characteristics, energy mix, retrofit businesses, the Wild West philosophy, wind and solar potential, and scarce water resources.

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For more information about the SW Collaborative or to share your ideas about subject matter that the SW Collaborative should address, please contact J.C. Martel at

SWEEP is a public interest organization that promotes energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. For more information, visit or follow them on Twitter@SouthwestEE.

“Having one regional voice helps home performance program success in our region. The collaborative has provided the Southwest, with our unique program issues, a way to voice concerns and issues to the national program designers as a single entity,” says Charlie Gohman, manager of the Arizona Home Performance program and a member of the collaborative.

While home performance is a house-by-house effort, each contractor and homeowner has the support of energy efficiency program managers. Those managers deliver rebates, publicity, contractor trainings, quality assurance, and analysis.

These program managers help not only their clients, but also their colleagues. In a series of monthly educational meetings, specific subject matter is discussed by national and local expert panels and guest speakers.

J.C. Martel joined the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) to provide technical support to governments and utilities on the development and implementation of energy efficiency programs and to influence policy decisions that affect the built environment in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.

This article is part of a series sponsored by Home Performance with Energy Star, jointly managed by the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency. The opinions, views, and ideas expressed within this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency of the U.S. government.

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