U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Building Technologies Office
National Energy Rating Program Request for Information (text version)
Below is the text version of the Webinar titled "National Energy Rating Program for Homes: Request for Information," originally presented on June 21, 2010. In addition to this text version of the audio, you can access a PDF of the slides (PDF 418 KB) and a recording of the Webinar (WMV 14 MB). Download Adobe Reader.
Joan Glickman: Just want to take an opportunity to tell you a little bit about what's in the Request for Information that's out there right now that we released earlier this month and then spend most of the time just getting your comments and trying to answer any questions you might have about our approach.
So with that I'll get started. I'm going to cover quickly what the major objectives are of this program that we're trying to stand up by the fall, cover what's in the RFI and as I said just have a discussion about what's in there and what you have to say.
Our major goal in establishing this program is really to encourage the broad scale up of the home energy retrofit market. We all know that energy efficiency makes sense and unfortunately is underinvested by homeowners and homebuyers. So we're trying to develop a clear, reliable and not cost prohibitive method of getting information to homeowners and homebuyers so they can make informed decisions and hopefully invest in greater efficiency in their homes.
We want to make sure that the information we provide is useful to lenders so that either at the point of purchase or when a homeowner is considering refinancing or a renovation that lenders will be more apt to provide them with funding to make energy improvements as part of that investment. We understand that there needs to be consistent worker and trainer requirements and all these barriers basically various information, financing and a lack of consistent worker standards were identified by the Recovery through Retrofit effort initiated by the Office of the Vice President last fall, so much of it we're doing as a response to that and obviously in our interest of just basically trying to poll the market.
We want to make that we emphasize that this is really a program that can only exist in partnership with other programs that are out there. It's not a stand-alone effort. It's something that we hope to introduce in partnership with home performance programs with energy star, the weatherization effort, state and local programs, utility programs that are out there already. We also want to build on some of the new disclosure requirements that are happening in certain areas around the country to make sure that what we do is useful to those communities and states that are being more proactive in that area.
What we included in the Request For Information was basically what the major elements were that we're considering for the label and for this effort, what kinds of performance metrics we're looking at. Before we went into all that we did lay out what our guiding principles were in terms of how we were analyzing various options and what those principles would be for advancing the type of approaches that we're using right now.
Welcome to several of you who have called in. This is Joan Glickman with the Department of Energy, we're just going through a few slides before we turn it over to comments and questions from all of you and hopefully a productive discussion.
So let's just go through getting started on what we've discussed in the Request for Information and formal comments for that are due by July 10th.
We went through the pros and cons of various approaches and where we do have an initial approach we've tried to outline that at least briefly to solicit comments on the approaches we are considering now.
In terms of the basic metric we looked at a site versus source energy, we looked at potentially using a cost metric or a carbon metric and we felt that obviously what we're working on is energy efficiency and reduction in energy use. We thought it made sense to at least stick to as a basic metric, energy. We went with source energy because we felt it was important to provide a basis that people would consider natural gas and electricity on an equal basis and take into account the actual energy they were using with their decisions and with their choices. We thought that it was almost important obviously to control for climate and calculate that energy use number and there's some different discussions about how we would do that. And I should say we thought about using either regional conversion factors or national conversion factors and we thought it would be simpler just to do it on a national basis although you could give that information carbon based on localized information.
As far a rating, we thought it was important to go for to an asset versus an operational rating and the rational there was that we want this information to be useful to homeowners and homebuyers, so regardless of who is using a home a consumer could understand how the asset itself rated regardless of their behavior. So setting that aside we would have some standard operational assumptions for operational behavior and then we would develop an approach to calculate the asset rating, again controlling for climate. We went back and forth in terms of considering whether or not it should be considered a consumption rating, which would just be BTUs or an efficiency rating which would probably be BTUs per square foot. There's pros and cons to that as well in terms of whether or not you want people to consider the fact that a bigger house might even if it's more efficient might still be using more energy. So there's pros and cons as you all know with each of those options.
We think it's really important to pick a scale and reference points that are understandable to consumers so that they can digest the information and use it effectively. We've seen from many studies that others have done and that we've done that reference points can really make a big difference in terms of anchoring the consumer's perspective and understanding of the information that they're getting, so we've thought of different ways to do that. One is putting in where a home's energy performance is today versus where it could be with improvements, showing what the average national home of a similar size, showing what a new home would rate in that climate or that state or locality. All of these are things we considered at our focus hearing. We talked about the fact that could use an absolute scale or convert a number into bins or stars or grades and as of now, at least, we were leaning toward using an absolute scale. One of the guiding principles that we laid out was transparency and we want to make sure that it's clear to people how it is we're coming up with the rating, making it a fairly simple approach that is easily understood.
There have been pros and cons that we've heard in terms as to whether or not we include recommendations. Another guiding principle is that we want to make sure that this is something that is relatively less expensive than the rating and auditing options that are out there today because we want it to be used in a more widespread way. At the same time if you are going with a less costly type of assessment, you're not going to be developing a formal work scope and clearly some of the information you're going to be providing could certainly be improved upon if you did a more in depth audit with diagnostics and all that kind of information and greater amount of measurements.
We thought it was still important that even if you're not going to have perfect information – you're never going to have perfect information – even if you're going to have a moderate level of information, we thought it was important to provide a preliminary list of recommendations based on preliminary estimate of savings using a national energy price for energy, although we did consider also using local tariff information. That's something else that's still under consideration.
We thought it was important not to show cost information in terms of how much it would likely cost someone to implement a measure because we heard a lot of concerns previously about the fact that local costs can vary considerably around the country and even within a community, so we didn't want to undermine the work of contractors out there and didn't want to mislead people to think that something is going to cost one thing when it's actually going to cost much more. So while you would have some cost analysis in terms of deciding whether something would be cost effective, you wouldn't necessarily show the cost per item. You'd just show preliminary saving estimates associated with each measure.
In terms of presenting the information for consumers, there's a lot of discussion about a label. We are required by the end of September to come up with a label per the Recovery through Retrofit report that was released last year. DOE has to issue a label as well as decide on a performance metric, also release drafts works for standards and working requirements. So we're working toward pretty aggressive deadlines but at the same time we recognize that it's going to evolve with time. We're trying to basically put out a framework that we think we can build on and improve over time. At the same time we don't want to put something out that then we're going to have to retract. We certainly don't want to do that. So we're coming up with something hopefully that people can buy in and build on in the future as we begin to go through implementation.
We'd probably provide information in both a paper form and also direct consumers to a URL that can provide them additional information on the home. Just to give people an idea of what we were talking about in terms of translating what we say in the RFI into a piece of paper, we put out these two examples of labels that summarize what we talk about, giving recommendations versus not giving recommendations, showing an efficiency rating versus a consumption rating. I doubt an eventual label will look exactly like either one of these, but we put these out there basically to help focus people's comments on the RFI and also on the labeling effort in particular.
We are beginning focus groups in I should say late June instead of July because we are starting one tonight. We are doing 12 focus groups in 6 different climates around the country where we bring together homeowners to show them different kinds of labeling info and talk to them in general about what will best inform them and help then make give them good, correct decisions and by terms of correct I mean the that they're not going to be confused by the information we provide and also get a sense of what they think would motivate them to undertake energy improvements either at point of sale or when owning their home at a time of purchasing a furnace or doing a renovation or at other points of their use of a home.
We talked very briefly about establishing a National Home Energy registry which is the idea of having a database that people could query and would be searchable by anyone. We would have public side of information in that registry as well as some that only be privately accessed. What we were hoping was not only would it be something that a consumer could go in and find out how an individual home was rated, but it would also allow us to collect a lot of information that would be helpful to programs around the country as we provide better benchmarks and better analysis as to what kind of improvements actually generate results. We have not begun establishing this, so we're looking for a lot of information as to people's thoughts on what would be most effective in doing this. We've heard some programs think it would be a great idea but not necessarily how we would do it.
Quality assurance is obviously something that's very important to us and to ensuring the longevity and confidence in this rating program. We plan to develop protocols to ensure that the information provided is accurately generated and consistently generated across homes. There will be certification standards for those who are doing the rating and generating labels, so not just anyone can go in and create a label for a home, but they would have to meet certain standards that are being established as part of this effort. Many of you may have met Benjamin Goldstein who is also at the Department of Energy. He is leading the effort in terms of establishing workforce standards that would be part of this effort.
We've discussed briefly in the RFI the issue of if whether we e should use one software tool to generate a label and generate a rating or if we many software tools should be allowed to provide those types of ratings. I think there are pros and cons to both of those approaches as well. At a minimum, we're thinking that even if we went with one software tool that will be publicly available, we would certainly allow, we'd develop API so that different software tools could interact with Home Energy Saver Pro, if that turns out to be the approach we do use. They could interact with it and they could provide additional information to homeowners so you're not limited as to just providing what we offer as part of Home Energy Saver Pro. We think it's very important to ensure that there's some kind of third party verification of the ratings through either sampling or some type of process where we verify that the ratings provided by individuals or by programs actually do hold up.
In terms of next steps we have begun and are continuing to do quite a bit of analysis on our own tool, Home Energy Saver Pro. We're collecting data from utilities, which has been very helpful to us. We're also working Earth Advantage Institute and David Hesla is on the phone today, so he can speak to what they're doing if there are questions. So we're hoping to have some good data from the Seattle pilot that they're running. In addition to this Request for Information, Benjamin Goldstein is working on one that seeks information on what's already out there in terms of workforce and training requirements as well as protocols for doing work effectively in homes in terms of undertaking energy improvements. I already mentioned the Seattle pilot, we're also planning to begin a pilot in September with HUD and FHA, in particular to understand what kinds of information would be most useful to FHA and to financiers in general as we try to encourage develop of additional tools for financing energy improvements and encourage greater use of those tools.
In addition to the webinar today, we had a general one yesterday and we having other conversations like this with other types of groups and are finding these very useful and we're happy to do others if that's warranted. The big next step is really to figure how we're going to implement this kind of effort with states utility and others, home performance with energy star etc. in the field.
With that I will turn it over to all of you for comments and questions. Here on the last page it notes where you should send in comments and if you haven't seen the Request for Information you can follow this URL and see it in full.
Q&A portion of presentation:
- Q: Have you considered using national HERS?
- Still considering using it and discussing with ResNet
- What we are trying to focus on is existing homes, so there's a possibility for the two to work together initialing
- Then in the future make them more compatible
- Q: Interested in software and the requirement needs for that. We have been working along similar lines as David and Earth Advantage Institute using something along lines of Simple model. Program will be using it for about 3,000 homes a year and want to make it consistent with national label.
- Is interested in Minneapolis pilot
- Think that whatever is developed but it's important for local and state programs to customize
- There would be certain things they couldn't change such as metric, but could customize with local cost for instance
- Some inspectors are being trained in order to perform these rating measurements
- Still working on what key measurements are as well with Seattle pilot
- Comment about Earth Advantage Pilot: Pilot is collecting Simple model data and additional fields in order to do analysis for HES Pro
- Will then be sent to LBNL for sensitivity model
- Appreciates the flexibility for local reference points, it will make it more relevant to consumers
- Can still fall back on national averages in places where there is a less established program
- Q: 12 focus groups in 6 climate zones – where are they?
- Portland, Phoenix, Denver, Miami, etc
- Polling homeowners in Rockville, MD and can change focus groups from place to place if certain factors aren't addressed
- Showing them labels to see what parts they find confusing and always viewing the labels as homeowners and homebuyers
- Q: Is the intent only to cover single family homes?
- Down the road want to consider multi-family homes
- Are going to work on project for commercial buildings as well
- Will need to use different metrics
- Q: What is the scope of the suggested improvements? Major appliances, lighting included – how does that relate to energy use rating?
- It is hard to compare, but are planning on assumptions on energy use such as plug load and thermostat settings
- Recommendations would be asset based, like improving furnace or major systems and possibly including operation dependent tips but wouldn't be in the same category
- At a minimum they would encourage people to buy Energy Star appliances
- Comments: How do we drive the middle class to buy into retrofitting? Energy efficiency rating seems digestable and easy for consumers to buy into. Healthy Homes Initiative - Baltimore pilot uses health and safety benefits to get people to spend the money on energy efficiency.
- Working on how HES Pro can raise awareness on the health aspects
- Q: Would it only be a software tool or other technical tools?
- Need onsite inspection for set of measurements
- Would not include diagnostics such as blower door test
- Don't want cost to be a barrier to entry and can later direct people to more inclusive energy audit
- Q: Is this going to be a gold standard for consumers? Will it be seen as a reliable measure?
- Working on the same questions on reliability
- There is little public information on accuracy of audits
- Can at least look at how credible the tool is
- Q: Where would listen label fall in for a consumer who already owns a home? It seems like it's more geared toward home sales advantages as you mentioned on focus groups
- Have been trying to meet both needs
- Could compare homes' ratings for homebuyers, but also making improvements and financing them as a homeowner
- Looking in FHA financing of rating
- Don't want it to be a static piece of information
- Q: When you introduce recommendations, would they need a re audit or would a follow up audit be included for those who make improvements?
- Inspector or assessor would generate label based on those inputs and place the date the measurements were taken
- If the homeowner makes improvements, then they could have the contractor update the data assessment and update the score
- Comment: Using QC audit to improve the score, so in programs where they need to do a second visit they can then assess the energy improvement