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ACI's Energy Upgrade California

Posted by Steve Mann on February 05, 2011
ACI's Energy Upgrade California, held January 10-11 in Los Angeles, presented a pretty good picture of how the Energy Upgrade California program will roll out across California. Currently an investor-owned utility (IOU) pilot program, it offers modest rebates for whole house improvements. There are a variety of rules and regulations, and paperwork, and processes that were all laid out pretty clearly at the conference. In addition, the local municipalities talked about their related programs and how they tie into Energy Upgrade California.

My overall impression of the incentive programs is that they are long on overhead and bureaucracy, and short on dollars. The maximum rebate is, I believe, about $4,000, not a lot of money for a whole-house retrofit. There are millions of state, federal, and utility dollars involved, but everyone in the food chain between the funding sources and the homeowner recipients is participating, each siphoning off their share for administration and management. It's a trickle-down kind of system. Everyone involved is quite proud to talk about how fantastic the programs are. I'll be interested in seeing, a year from, just how many homes have been upgraded and some metrics on the value of those upgrades.

In addition to retrofit program details, there were the usual ACI-type sessions: home performance, diagnostics, deep energy retrofits, basic building science, and so on. No big content surprises, but I always learn something new. A lot of content was geared towards contractors, but my impression is that less than half the attendees were actually licensed professionals. There were a lot more program and policy people than I expected.

My favorite presenter, who I saw for the first time, was Joe Kuonen. He's one those gnarly old guys that's been doing HVAC for decades. He's got loads of practical, common sense, diagnostic tips, and he's darn funny too. My kind of presenter.  EPA's Leif Magnuson presented a panel of specialists that had some very specific, detailed information about air-borne pollutants, VOCs, and other IAQ issues, including insulation testing. Essential information for anyone working with buildings. Other regular presenters included what I'm starting to think of as the California Home Performance Collaborative--Rick Chitwood, Gary Klein, Andy Wahl, Gavin Healy, and Dan Perunko.

If you are involved in any way in home performance, energy consulting, or construction, you should go to at least one ACI conference. They do regional events all year. The next national conference, their 25th, occurs March 28-April 1 in San Francisco.

For a related discussion on Energy Upgrade California, join the Energy Upgrade group on Home Energy Pros.

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