Celebrating 35 Years: Energy Impact Illinois

35 Facts for CNT’s 35 Years: Each week we’ll expand on one fun fact. Enjoy!

#32 Energy Impact Illinois

EI2 logo stackedIn early 2010, CNT Energy learned about the major national initiative to use American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for energy efficiency projects that also created jobs and general prosperity. Locally, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) applied for and was awarded ARRA funds from the US Department of Energy to align all of the energy efficiency programs serving the Chicagoland region into one easily recognizable place. As CNT and CNT Energy had already helped establish the need for coordinated regional energy efficiency efforts through work on things like the Chicago Climate Action Plan, Chicago Regional Energy Snapshot, and the Municipal Energy Profile Program (MEPP), we applied for and won a competitive bidding process to serve as CMAP’s implementation agency, overseeing the execution of all the program that would become Energy Impact Illinois.

MarkCheckingHotWaterHeatersEnergy Impact Illinois (sometimes called “EI2”) is an alliance of government organizations, nonprofits, and utility companies (like Nicor and ComEd), dedicated to helping communities in the Chicago metropolitan area become more energy efficient. The program helps homeowners overcome barriers that often prevent them from making their homes more energy efficient, including offering low- or no-cost energy assessments, instant rebates to cover upfront costs, and qualified contractors to do the home improvements. The foundation of this type of program was already in place through existing CNT programs (like Energy Savers) and relationships (CIC, local and city government, etc.), so we were able to get up and running quickly.

Of course, the “If you build it, they will come” approach isn’t typically successful, so the CNT Energy EI2 team developed an outreach strategy with some innovative (and fun) tactics. Among the most beneficial were house parties and community meetings to drive homeowner interest in energy efficiency.

At the house parties, a program expert and local contractor demonstrate how homes can waste energy and what steps to take to fix it. Contractors use tools like a blower door to demonstrate how much air is getting in or out through small cracks and gaps, or infrared monitors to visually show temperature differences and exactly where insulation is missing. To date, nearly 700 homeowners have hosted a house party.

Chicago’s PBS station, WTTW, profiled Energy Impact Illinois in April 2013.

This community-based approach has turned people on to the topic of energy efficiency, and the program is successful because it’s harnessing the power of neighbors talking to neighbors.

It also creates local jobs.

Our proposal to manage EI2 stressed that our work would establish a lasting retrofit marketplace which would create a virtuous cycle–lenders would provide money to finance home retrofits and improvements, which would reduce energy use and create jobs. The low-risk lending opportunities were good for banks, the local jobs and preserved affordable housing were good for the regional economy, and the lowered energy costs and increased home comfort were good for residents.

The Energy Impact Illinois (EI2) program is led by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), in partnership with the City of Chicago, City of Rockford, ComEd, Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, Nicor Gas, North Shore Gas, Peoples Gas and The Northern Illinois Energy Project. Consumers, building owners, contractors and municipalities can go to energyimpactillinois.org to find the latest incentives and opportunities for saving energy and money.

We’re celebrating CNT’s 35 years of impact on sustainable urban development through 35 weeks of posts like this one. If you have a story or picture from our past, please share it with Liz at lmiller@cnt.org. Thanks!

CNT’s work is made possible, in part, through generous support from individual donors. Please click here to make a gift in honor of our 35th anniversary.

Next week: #33 Right Size Parking Calculator