Sharing successes showcases the impacts of the work of your staff, partners, and other key stakeholders, and can contribute to the development of a self-sustaining marketplace for energy efficiency lending by proving that home energy lending is beneficial for all involved (i.e., homeowners, lenders, and contractors).
Financing activity results from your program’s impact evaluation are good information to communicate, but you should also plan to develop and share examples, stories, lessons learned, best practices, etc., that highlight financing successes to demonstrate the viability and value of energy efficiency lending.
Your program’s communication strategy will be developed at the programmatic level. As part of this communication strategy, your program will identify:
- Roles and responsibilities for program staff and partners
- External audiences for communicating program impacts
- Channels and products for communication.
This handbook focuses on the steps for you to communicate the impacts of your financing activities as part of your program’s communication strategy. They are:
- Collect examples, stories, lessons learned, best practices, and data trends that highlight financing successes.
- Communicate program impacts with your lending partners.
Step by Step
As part of your program’s strategy for communicating impacts, you will want to identify financing successes to share with external stakeholders, as well as program-wide successes to share with your lending partners.
The following two steps can help you communicate the impacts of your financing activities.
Examples, Stories, Lessons Learned, and Best Practices
As you deliver your program and maintain communication with homeowners and your lending and contractor partners, plan to identify examples, stories, lessons learned, and best practices that highlight the successes of your program’s financing activities. These successes can be communicated to audiences such as program funders, homeowners, potential lending and contractor partners, secondary investors, and the media to demonstrate the positive impact your program is making, the viability and profitability of home energy lending, and the value of home energy lending as a tool to drive uptake of home energy upgrades.
These successes might include:
- Homeowners who were able to convert their interest in home energy upgrades into actual completion because of the affordable financing offered.
- Homeowners who were initially only interested in air sealing their home, but due to affordable financing also decided to upgrade their refrigerator, washer/dryer, and HVAC system, resulting in deeper energy savings.
- Contractors who are able to process paperwork quickly so that approvals happen the same day.
- Lenders who experienced low initial approval rates for home energy loans using traditional underwriting criteria, but then saw increases in approval rates (with low default rates) when switching to alternative underwriting criteria (e.g., utility bill payment history).
- How your program saw increases in loan uptake by ensuring that contractors could explain financing options to homeowners with simple messages focused on long-term value, low monthly payments, low interest rates, enhanced home comfort, and energy savings.
You can collect successes through surveys of homeowners and regular meetings with your lending and contractor partners, discussed in the Financing – Assess & Improve Processes handbook. Your program should encourage open, informal, and ongoing input from your lender and contractor partners to help collect successes.
All examples, stories, lessons learned, and best practices should be passed on to the person in your program responsible for implementing your communication strategy.
Use positive trends in your program’s financing metrics, tracked through implementation of your financing evaluation plan and overall evaluation plan to highlight the success of your financing activities to external stakeholders. Downward trends and areas of improvement are also important to look out for and should be resolved while working with your lending and contractor partners to assess and improve processes.
Data to watch for may include:
- Increases in loan applications and approvals
- Increases in average loan amount
- Decreases in time between loan application and approval
- Decreases in loan payment defaults.
Work with your lending partners and evaluation team to collect these positive data trends, and pass them on to your program’s communication team to incorporate into outreach material.
Efficiency Maine Highlights Financing Successes
Efficiency Maine administers a number of energy-saving programs to promote the efficient and cost-effective use of energy by Maine homeowners. Through Efficiency Maine, the Home Energy Savings Program offers a variety of energy loans to help homeowners pay for energy upgrades, including Efficiency Maine Energy Loans, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans, and FHA PowerSaver loans.
The images below are screen shots showing how Efficiency Maine has communicated some of its successes:
- The 2012 Year in Review highlights the story of how one couple used a home energy loan from Efficiency Maine to make their home more comfortable and save an expected 40% on their energy costs.
2012 Year in Review
Source: 2012 Year in Review, Efficiency Maine, 2012
- The case study of a homeowner illustrates how she was able to finance home energy upgrades that will save her 30% a year in energy bills. More case studies are also available on Efficiency Maine's website.
Efficiency Maine Case Study
Source: Putting an end to ice dams case study, Efficiency Maine, 2013
Efficiency Maine’s 2013 Annual Report also provides metrics of financing successes achieved in fiscal year 2013, which include:
- 203 loans issued, totaling $2.5 million, through Efficiency Maine’s PACE and PowerSaver Loan Program (129 PACE loans, 25 secured PowerSaver loans, and 49 unsecured PowerSaver loans).
- Average loan amounts of $12,730 for PACE loans, $21,349 for secured PowerSaver loans, $6,528 for unsecured PowerSaver loans.
- Verified first-year, annual gross savings for the PACE and PowerSaver Loan Program for fiscal year 2013: 10,445 million British thermal units (MMBtu), or an average of 54.4 MMBtu per project.
Through your ongoing interactions with lending partners, plan to share positive financing data trends with them as well as homeowner success stories related to financing and program-wide impacts.
Communicating your successes will demonstrate the positive impact your program is making in your community and how your lending partners are contributing to that impact. Demonstrating the viability and profitability of home energy lending will also strengthen confidence in it among your current lending partners, potential lending partners, and secondary investors, helping to create a sustainable market for home energy lending.
Program-wide impacts to consider communicating to your lending partners include:
- Total upgrades completed
- Number of jobs created, number of workers receiving a paycheck, or increased contractor revenue
- Energy saved per home upgrade and total energy saved
- Energy cost savings per homeowner and total cost savings
- Conversion rates between home energy assessments and upgrades completed
- Types of upgrades homeowners are completing through your program
- Customer satisfaction with your program’s offerings and their experience working with your program
- Successful marketing and outreach initiatives undertaken by your program
- Types of financing that homeowners are using to complete energy upgrades, the average loan amount, and the loan default rate
- Market transformation effects on the home performance industry in your community. For example:
- Greater awareness of opportunities and benefits of home energy upgrades among homeowners, contractors, lenders, and other market actors
- Larger, more comprehensive upgrade projects being undertaken
- Greater quantity and quality of upgrade projects completed.
Community Power Works Showcases Program Impacts
Community Power Works in Seattle, Washington, partners with two lenders to provide low-interest loans: local nonprofit community lender Craft3 and Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union.
Community Power Works’ website prominently highlights homeowner stories that detail how affordable financing offered by the program’s lending partners help to make upgrades possible. For example, one such story explains how one customer upgraded her old, inefficient furnace with a new, efficient model, saving her family $200 a month on their energy bill. The high upfront cost of the furnace replacement threatened to put the upgrade out of Susie’s reach, but through a low-interest, Craft3 loan she was able to complete the upgrade.
Tips for Success
In recent years, hundreds of communities have been working to promote home energy upgrades through programs such as the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, utility-sponsored programs, and others. The following tips present the top lessons these programs want to share related to this handbook. This list is not exhaustive.
Successful programs use many channels to communicate accomplishments and results to stakeholders. These include word of mouth and products such as press releases, announcements on websites, case studies, and presentations. Many programs use earned media—especially local media when possible—by giving people something to talk about, such as endorsements from local personalities.
- New Orleans’ NOLA WISE program (Worthwhile Investments Save Energy) organized showcases hosted by homeowners. NOLA WISE promoted these showcases through neighborhood canvassing, electronic newsletters, social media, and collaboration with nearby neighborhood associations. The events often generated earned media coverage. NOLA WISE experienced an uptick in home energy assessment requests in neighborhoods where these events were held following the showcases.
- At the Energize Bedford launch event, Martha Stewart—one of Bedford’s best-known citizens—was a prominent attendee and supporter. Reaching well beyond the immediate community, Martha Stewart wrote about her experience on her blog, further illuminating the important work of Energize Bedford. Locally well-known people can be effective program champions as well, such as a local weather person.
- The Solar and Energy Loan Fund in St. Lucie County, Florida actively attracted media coverage by continuously refreshing its message, maintaining a sense of new activity and innovation, and stressing its contribution to the community. The program emphasized “firsts” in its messaging—such as its first loan, its first experience with crowd funding, and launching the county’s first PACE financing program. It emphasized key funding or participation milestones (e.g., $2 million in loans issued).The program also highlighted the success of its partners and the satisfaction of clients, in addition to its own accomplishments. These activities kept the program continuously in the news.
The following resources provide topical information related to this handbook. The resources include a variety of information ranging from case studies and examples to presentations and webcasts. The U.S. Department of Energy does not endorse these materials.
Ivy Knoll Senior Retirement Community used PACE financing to make significant building improvements of systems that were outdated or energy inefficient. Through PACE financing, Ivy Knoll management was able to select improvements that had the highest energy savings but also came with higher upfront costs for the 7-story, all-electric building.
With project funding from Energize NY PACE and incentives from NYSERDA's Multifamily program, Natlew Corporation was able to make energy efficiency upgrades to their multifamily affordable housing complex in Mount Vernon, NY.
PACE Equity worked closely with CRE Investment Financing to develop and fund a new construction, micro-apartment project in the Sloans Lake area of Denver. This project is the first new construction PACE project in Colorado, as well as the first PACE project completed in Denver.
This case study describes Austin Energy's short-term, comprehensive rebate/financing offer to jump-start participation and valuable lessons learned along the way.
Highlights the EcoHouse Project Loan Program, which provides fixed interest rate loans as a tool for enabling energy improvements among households that are otherwise unlikely to be able to access affordable financing at market rates.
This case study highlights Clean Energy Works Oregon's (now Enhabit) low interest, on-bill financing and alternative underwriting practices which have achieved a low rejection rate while also maintaining a low loan default rate.
Discusses innovative financing options designed to expand the accessibility of energy efficiency financing to households that typically do not qualify for traditional loans.
This case study presents information about the AlabamaWISE program. It includes background information, approaches the program took to enhance home energy efficiency, and results achieved by the program.
This infographic illustrates program accomplishments between 2011 and 2014.
This page contains annual and monthly update reports of the Green Jobs-Green New York program.
This presentation provides an overview of the Energy Savers program for affordable rental housing, its loan structure, and lessons learned.
This summary from a Better Buildings Residential Network peer exchange call focused on gathering and communicating loan performance data.
The Small Town Energy Program (STEP) toolkit gives a complete overview of STEP from planning to implementation. It also includes access to a wide variety of materials developed by the program, including: local asset materials, partner materials, personnel materials, program administrative materials, outreach materials, and surveys. STEP has posted these toolkit documents with the hope that it will assist other small towns and communities in building and running more energy efficiency programs.
This website provides an overview of financing as it pertains to state, local, and tribal governments who are designing and implementing clean energy financing programs. Residential financing tools include residential PACE (R-PACE), on-bill financing and repayment, loan loss reserves and other credit enhancements, revolving loan funds, and energy efficient mortgages.
This report presents results, recommendations, and case studies of energy efficiency financing programs.