What’s so sexy about insulation?

Here’s what’s sexy about it: saving money

-President Barack Obama, defending the allure of weatherization

For all of the popular courtship with supply-side energy solutions and media dalliances with enticing new technologies, it’s easy to overlook the ever underappreciated energy investment opportunity that has so excited our sitting president: weatherization.

As the $4.7 billion allocated to the Weatherization Assistance Program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 slowly trickles unnoticed through the state bureaucracies it’s worth examining how, for some of our poorest communities, the best energy policy is a less-energy policy.

Here in the Southern states using electricity for climate control is a necessity in the summer, as much a matter of health as comfort. So while it may come as no surprise that the top 10 states for residential energy consumption per household are in the South, 7 of those states are also on the top 10 list for percent of the population living below the poverty line (Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia).

Policymakers with the City of Austin recognize that the cheapest kilowatt hour is the one you don’t generate, and included in the Climate Protection Program is a goal of offsetting 700 MW of demand through efficiency and weatherization. Neighboring Houston’s Residential Energy Efficiency Program already boasts having reduced energy consumption by over 12% in 7,000 homes. While the immediate benefit is a reduced monthly outflow of cash from area households, the benefits to low-income communities are more far-reaching.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory conducted a study in 2002 estimating the monetized value of all non-energy benefits of weatherization programs to low-income communities, including the environmental impacts and employment multipliers, to be approximately $3,300 per household. My good friends at the Louisiana Green Corps in New Orleans have been rebuilding their neighborhoods sustainably while simultaneously creating paths to green jobs. These benefits are best summed up in JP’s moving testimonial:

Also, make sure to check out Green Corps’ hit single Going Green:


Obama’s Remarks on Energy Efficiency and Job Creation, December 15th 2009: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-energy-efficiency-and-job-creation

Weatherization Assistance Program, State by State Awards and Disbursement: http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/weatherization/recovery_act_awards.cfm

City of Austin Climate Protection Plan, Utility Goals: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/acpp/utility_plan.htm

Oak Ridge National Lab, Non-energy Benefits of Low-Income Weatherization: http://weatherization.ornl.gov/download_files/Con-484-april02.pdf

Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption by State: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/esr/table5.html

Census Bureau, Poverty by State: http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/saipe/national.cgi?year=2008&ascii=

Houston Residential Energy Efficiency Program: http://www.houstontx.gov/reep/index.html


1 Comment

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One response to “What’s so sexy about insulation?

  1. Informational write up, thanks for sharing. I feel the utility companies should play a critical role in continuously educating consumers about energy efficiency.

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