U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Set realistic expectations for launching and scaling up your program

Many program administrators have found that launching and scaling up a program often takes longer than planned for, especially when forming partnerships with contractors and lenders. New energy efficiency programs often need at least 2-3 years to launch and become fully operational. Across programs, the amount of time it takes to get to full operations depends on many factors, including the number of qualified contractors working in the area, the availability of funding, the level of stakeholder and partner support that is available, the program’s goals and strategies, and the presence of unique program features that may take time to develop, such as community workforce agreements or loan products. Many program administrators found it helpful to set realistic expectations internally—and with key partners and stakeholders—about how long it takes to get programs fully up and running. And, they suggest celebrating and communicating achievements along the way.

  • emPowerSBC in Santa Barbara, California, found that launching its program and scaling up took more time than expected. The launch of the program was delayed more than a year as the program modified its financing strategy from one that relied on residential PACE to one focused on a loan-loss reserve. Following the launch, hiring delays kept the program from being fully staffed for around six months. Contractors working with the program reported that it took three to twelve months for a lead to turn into a signed contract for upgrade services because homeowners took their time deciding whether to invest in energy efficiency.
  • The Virginia State Energy Program (SEP) found that it was difficult for its three programs around the state—the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP), the Richmond Region Energy Alliance, and Community Alliance for Energy Efficiency (Cafe2)—to meet their upgrade targets in three years because the home performance industry in the state was still developing when the programs were initiated. These in-state programs started with little to no infrastructure in place and had to address barriers such as lack of qualified contractors before they could even begin offering home energy upgrades. For example, the programs found that contractors were reluctant to modify their business models and agree to undertake the paperwork and data collection the programs required. Over time, the programs developed strategies to work more effectively with contractors, such as holding monthly contractor meetings (in the case of LEAP) and establishing written Memoranda of Understanding with contractors to clarify mutual expectations (in the case of Cafe2). Virginia SEP advised that programs’ goals and timelines should reflect the starting conditions and the work that needs to be accomplished in order to achieve program goals.
  • Enhabit, formerly Clean Energy Works Oregon, began with modest goals for a pilot project in Portland and then ramped up its ambitions as it expanded statewide. The goals for the program’s pilot project were to upgrade 500 homes in Portland, build a qualified workforce, and test its approach to service delivery. After the pilot, the program expanded to all of Oregon and upgraded over 3,000 homes around the state in three years.
See all tips from these handbooks:

Establish specific marketing and outreach goals, objectives, targets, and timeframes.

Establish goals, objectives, and timeframes for your financing activities.

Establish program goals and objectives to clarify what you want your program to achieve and to guide program design and implementation over time.

Establish metrics and measurement strategies for understanding whether you are effectively achieving your program goals and meeting your customers’ needs, while identifying areas that can be improved.