The 25 Million Dollar “Ramp”

by Nicole Delmage

The federal government has awarded Boulder County $25M for what amounts to “getting ready” to retrofit more than four hundred homes per week over the next three years.  Why do we need money to get ready?  Seems like an awful lot of preening.   Apparently, we do not have a local work force that is trained to do this many energy efficiency retrofits within this time frame.

“Ramp-up” means to make a smooth transition to some higher and more desirable place (my definition).  Being in the same family as “leg work”, “R&D”, and “reconnaissance”, it is not the ultimate goal.  The role of ramping-up is to be ready for the real goal at hand: to retrofit lots of homes very quickly using a local workforce.   How will $25M be used to ensure the real goal is met with the most effective impact on the local economy?

Some notable suggestions I have heard…
•  Target a announcement to un(der)employed people who want to do this work.
•  Clarify qualifications required to do the work.
•  Fund inexpensive or free training for a talented and effective work force.
•  Provide very clear information about regulatory standards for retrofits.
•  Fund financial incentives for homeowners to kick-start the demand for retrofits.

I learned, while participating in an “open space dialogue” at the Boulder Green Building Guild (BGBG) conference last week, large companies from states that have stronger energy efficiency programs in place are ready to do this work.  All they need to do is move to Colorado, and it sounds like they are planning to.  This outcome does not fit with the goal of boosting the local economy.  Can we be ready to capture a large part of the retrofit market before others swoop in?

When it comes to our workforce shortfalls we are not alone.  There is shortage almost everywhere you look.  Trained people in the Energy Efficiency Service Sector (EESS), from managers and engineers to technicians and contractors, are in very high demand across the nation.  This demand will only increase and, as a result, this problem of not having enough people to do the work is also a spectacular opportunity.  With outreach and education Boulder County has the potential to reduce unemployment while taking on climate change and ultimately creating a sustainable energy efficiency industry for the future.

The Colorado Retrofit Ramp-up Program team is now working hard and fast to finalize the ramp-up strategy.  My hope is that by writing this post I contribute to spreading the word.  I want our community to utilize this opportunity to its fullest!

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