Department of Energy Stakeholder Webinar: DOE's Progress to Date and Future Plans on National Building Rating Program (text version)
Below is the text version of the Webinar titled "Department of Energy Stakeholder Webinar: DOE's Progress to Date and Future Plans on National Building Rating Program," originally presented on March 9, 2010. In addition to this text version of the audio, you can access a PDF of the slides (PDF 381 KB) and a recording of the Webinar (WMV 25 MB). Download Adobe Reader.
Okay, we are ready to start the webinar on the National Building Performance and Rating program, and focused on the residential efforts. This is our March 9th stakeholder webinar, and this is the second webinar we've held on this topic, the last one being the third week of December. So we are pleased to be able to bring interested folk an update on where the Department of Energy is in thinking through a national building performance and rating program.
And so just because we may have a number of people participating in this webinar that we haven't had in the past, we thought it would be good to start at the beginning, in terms of the rationale behind development of a national building performance and rating program.
As we all know, buildings account for a tremendous amount of U.S. energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. We know there's a tremendous amount of cost effective opportunity for reducing that energy use 20 percent or more per household, a similar amount for commercial buildings. We also know that as we work with the weatherization program that we are investing a lot of effort there with weatherization workers, and as we look down the road a little bit, there's an important opportunity for transitioning these weatherization workers to the broader marketplace.
So doing what we need to do now to build out that energy efficiency improvement infrastructure is critical. We do see that part of what is needed to happen in the development of a clear, credible, consistent and readily available set of information so we can all better understand building energy performance around key decisions that are made with buildings. And so the development of such a system, as well as an energy label and rating can be a cornerstone to encouraging consumers and banks to engage in building retrofits and the valuation of homes and — and buildings.
So the — as we think through the market barriers that are there so that we can be very thoughtful about the key elements of a national building program, we have put together a chart to show sort of where we are. And what — and this really builds off of the recovery to retrofit work, being led by the vice president's office and was put out in a report last fall. So people that are familiar with that report know that the — the barrier assessment fell down — fell into sort of three broad areas; consumer information, financing and then worker certification and training. So as we work out the key elements of the program we're working on here, we are expecting to address each of those areas, and I'm going to talk a little bit about each of those today.
The next chart just shows in greater detail what we are viewing as key elements of this national program, and I think the important aspects of this is — is that as we look at the federal role for this building program, you know, we certainly are working to help address the market barriers on the prior slide, but we're really striving to provide a framework that can provide consistency for the home retrofit market, sort of an underlying and pervasive consistency in what it is. We will be working with stakeholders to advance across the country. So the key elements that we see are developing assessment tools and other resources, links to those assessment tools, a label that would be a sort of federal label, a national label, but clearly that could also be customized and tailored at the local level, quality assurance standards, worker certification and training standards, as well as technical standards for the work that would be being done, and then a national building performance registry.
So that's sort of the general introduction of what we are doing, and now I'm gonna turn it over to Joan Glickman, who is the lead for this activity here at the Department of Energy, to go into these components a little bit more in detail, including how we expect them to sort of address some of the key market issues and engage the market actors that are out there.
Thanks very much, Kathleen. And this is Joan Glickman, and I'm looking forward to telling you a little bit more about what we're thinking about with this national program. This slide basically illustrates some of the same ideas that Kathleen raised earlier, which is that we are trying to clearly reduce the market barriers that are out there affecting the market, and specifically affecting some of the key market actors. Clearly, a need to motivate homeowners to invest in energy improvement, and you want homebuyers to make informed choices, whether they're comparing two different homes and trying to understand how they perform from an energy perspective, or whether they're thinking about buying a home and would like to make an informed choice about what kinds of improvements they can make in order to make the home more comfortable and more energy efficient.
One of the key actors out there, although we're not offering finance, obviously, other than what we do to the weatherization assistance program, one of the very important actors are the lenders. And in order for homebuyers or homeowners to secure a loan, clearly they need to be able to demonstrate credible information to the lender, and the lender needs to feel some confidence that if they provide a financial mechanism for the homeowner or homebuyer, that they will be able to recoup this investment, that they will be financially secure and will actually realize the savings that they've projected in order to be able to pay back the investment.
I'm gonna move on to the next slide, rather than going through every single part of this, because we do have some repetition. I apologize if you're seeing some slide information on the screen. We're trying to work that out.
The next slide, the proposed components of national program, really just provides a little more detail on the six bubbles that were in one of the slides a couple — a couple slides back. The one that probably gets the most attention — that's why we put it first — is the label. People can try to relate to a label and we all recognize the importance of providing a national label and rating that consumers and lenders can understand, interpret and use to compare between assets, and also to help them make informed decisions. We have consistent underlined there because clearly if you want to be able to compare between labels and between homes, you need to understand the metric that's identified there, and part of the label is done in a consistent way. So we're gonna be developing a consistent performance metric, as well as a consistent method to calculate that performance of the home, in terms of energy use.
And Kathleen touched on this earlier, that while we are trying to come up with a framework that's consistent across the board, so that homeowners or homebuyers could compare our list of where they are in the country, that this is something that should be able to be customized by states, local governments and other adopters. There's a great deal of innovation that's already out there, and we're not only learning from that, but we're also — we want to encourage it. So basically if a local government or state or another entity wanted to have their own label, the component that would have to be consistent would be the national part of it. If you're gonna have a national home energy rating, then that part needs to be something that's comparable across the board. But if a local entity wanted to provide additional information that they think their customer base and consumers would be interested in, that's clearly something that they could do, whether it's providing additional metrics, additional benchmarks or other types of information.
Many of you are already aware of the types of tools and resources that develop — the DOE and its national labs have developed over the years. Some of you probably know about the tool developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab many years ago, that was designed for homeowners to be able to understand better how they were using energy in their homes. Most recently, LBNL, working with DOE, has developed another type — another version of this tool, which is the Home Energy Saver Pro, designed for professionals to be able to in a fairly easy way go in and accurately measure how a home is performing.
And part of what's underlying that HES PRO, which is what we call it, is a national measures database that NREL has developed, which they've just recently worked to bring into a much more up to date form. And what that national measures database is, is basically they collect information across the country of what it would cost if you're gonna implement a specific retrofit measure in your home. So when HES PRO generates information and provides recommendations to a consumer, they can feel much more confident that whatever type of rate of return it's projecting for that specific measure, it's something that they can rely on. And we'd like to know if there are other resources and tools that you think would be important to supporting the home retrofit market.
Obviously, there's many, many tools out there the private sector has created and states and local governments have created, but we think that it's important that we have these complementary resources that are publicly available.
The next one, we struggled a little bit of the terminology. Even ‘til today, we've still struggled with terminology. But I think we have the idea down, which is that we believe it's very important that if a consumer is gonna go in or a lender is gonna go in and lend money for a retrofit, that that retrofit is performed to a certain standard, a certain minimum standard. So certain performance outcomes need to be achieved, whether you're doing assessment, an audit or a specific type of retrofit activity, and there are certain standard work procedures or protocols that you need to follow. Even though individual companies will have best practices and have their own ways of doing the work, basically we want a consumer to understand that they're gonna get quality work regardless of where they are in the country, as long as they use a certified worker.
Which brings me to the next point, which is worker certification and training. There are a number of different certification programs out there right now, and there are a number of very highly qualified certified workers, but it's difficult to understand how they all compare. And so what we want to make sure is that regardless, again, if you're on the receiving end of one of these workers, that you are hiring someone who can adequately understand and is proficient in doing the work that they are intended to do. And the same thing goes for a worker. If a worker is going to a training program, we want them to understand that that training program is meeting certain standards, that it has been accredited by another entity that demonstrates that they're teaching them the right stuff, so that they can be qualified when they go out there and do the work.
The next couple are a little tricky, not that they're not all tricky. But quality assurance is something that we all can agree that we need and that is important in order for people to have confidence in the — what they're going to be paying for and what they're getting. And although we want it, we also want to make sure that the quality that we're assuring is not been done — is done in a way that's not being overly burdensome or costly. So unless we can stand behind what stays on the label, as well as the work that's being performed, the home retrofit market will not be able to grow sustainably, so that's something that we're trying to address. And finally, again, although we're not sure about the terminology, we're not sure what we're gonna call all this, we have an idea for a National Building Performance Registry, which would be a repository for information on those homes that have been labeled and rated. We think that's gonna be valuable not only to consumers and lenders to be able to access information, but also in allowing all of us to develop more useful benchmarks, by expanding the amount of data that's out there, the amount of reliable data that's out there.
Okay, so I'm gonna step back for a minute, and now that we've given you a sketch of where we think the program is going, step back a little bit and tell you how we hope to get there. As Kathleen and — and we outlined back in December, for those of you who participated in the first webinar, we outlined that we're going be doing this in sort of a
phased approach. So I'm happy to say that we've made some progress at least on phase one, and that was basically going out and researching existing residential labeling programs, existing retrofit programs and trying to learn from the programs and studies that are out there and have already been done. The next steps are basically learning from those what kind of program are we gonna be developing and designing and demonstrating to people and giving them a chance to give us their input, obviously, on what we put together as a — as a first step.
The third phase, although some of these are being done concurrently, are pilots. And we recognize that while there was a great amount of research that has already been done, there still was a need to complement that research with additional information. So we are working to design a series of pilots. One that's probably the furthest along right now and under its development is the FHA/HUD pilot that we're hoping to launch in April. And this is basically designed to make sure that we know what kind of information lenders really need and what level of accuracy they need in order to make decisions about their lending. So given that we want to expand the amount of financing available to homeowners and to homebuyers, we think this will be a really useful partnership in understanding that better.
And finally, hopefully we'll get to phase four. We're planning to launch the National Building Performance and Rating program. Again, names may change here, but the ideas will be consistent to what we're providing today, and that should be launched in September. We think it's incredibly important to do this in partnerships with states and others, that clearly if we're gonna have a national program, we have to all be on the same page and understand what it means and what we're trying to achieve. We need to include a process for continuous improvement. I think we are gonna feel confident in what we launch in September, but we also recognize that many of the components will evolve and will improve over time. And we know that we are not gonna be implementing all of this on our own, or even some parts at all, and that we will need to support other organizations who will likely implement certain functions, such as certifying workers, accrediting programs, training programs or providing quality assurance.
Okay, so quickly I'm gonna discuss what we've learned to date, and this is just to show that we have looked at programs across the nation, as well as around the world, and we've reviewed some of the outstanding studies that are — have been done there, including the one that we did by Newport Partners, which I'll highlight a bit. So — sorry. Technical difficulties. No, you don't have to highlight. You just need to go to the next slide. Sorry, but that was nice.
Anyway, so on the next slide, when we get to it, is basically discussing what DOE has learned to date. What we've learned and what has been pretty much stated across the spectrum, is that a national program must allow flexibility at a state or local level, while providing a certain level of consistency across the nation. An effective program is going to be able to inform consumers regardless of how they might enter the retrofit market. So
as we talked about, homebuyers and sellers, if they are going in and considering how to compare homes, they should be provided with good information about how to compare homes, or if they want to know how a home that they're considering buying might improve with some investments that they might want to make and bundle them to their loan, that's something else that we want to influence.
Homeowners, clearly there's a lot of opportunity to influence them, and you don't get that many people calling for an audit or retrofit, but you do get a lot of people buying new equipment, replacing broken equipment, and although the market is not as robust right now, we expect it will come back and doing large remodeling projects. So we think in any of these cases we have an opportunity to influence a homeowner or a homebuyer and help them make decisions that will end up saving energy and saving them money in the long run.
A national program should support the retrofit work that's already being conducted by the private sector and weatherization networks. Clearly there's a lot of great work already going on out there, and we want to, as I said, spur innovation that's already out there and in fact, enhance it, and build on what's — the good work that's being done. A national rating needs to reflect a uniform metric, be generated by trained third parties and be neutral to the number — number of occupants, so obviously looking at an asset rating some degree there, and have a sufficient level of accuracy at a reasonable cost. Right now some consumers find the cost of going into the market cost prohibitive, so we want to make sure that there are tools available to those who want to get an accurate, yet fairly basic assessment of their home at a reasonable cost. And a label, the way we think about it is it would have a sticker component, whether it's on a sticker or not, that would include a national rating, but it would also include recommendations for building improvements, because that's obviously what we're trying to get done here, and an online component that might be linked to additional information and also linked to this national building performance registry that we talked about.
The next two slides really just capture some of the important information we learned through this Newport Partners study that our building program did last year. And as you see, we interviewed and had focus groups with a lot of different types of folks, and they said, at least in some cases, they did agree on — on certain fundamentals, which is the U.S. needs a national comparable asset rating. It needs to be national in scope, performed by third parties, and again, provide a score which is comparable across homes regardless of where you are.
This is something that I'm sure is not new to you, that many people talked about the fact that home energy ratings must be accurate and reliable, but there's sometimes a gap between what the model energy use is for a home and what its actual use is. And so that's clearly a concern that we need to address, and we'll work with others to see if we can reduce that gap.
I'm very happy with this little flow chart. Hopefully it's understandable to those of you who are listening. And this is basically what we're — it doesn't necessarily look this way, but what it's supposed to look like is sort of a foundation that the National Building Performance and Rating Program, in this case for homes, will be providing to folks regardless of where they are in the process, from start to finish. So if you're a homebuyer, you're gonna need to get your home inspected, the one you're considering buying. You can go through energy assessment, but we're calling energy assessment something that we do with HES PRO, or possibly other tools, that you would generate a pre-retrofit label with that assessment and develop a preliminary work scope, and then as the homebuyer, you could either decide to make improvements or not. If you do go through additional effort to make the improvement, either by getting a loan or financing it yourself, you can get an auditor or a contractor to give you a more detailed work scope and ultimately do the retrofit and hopefully have savings verified at the end.
It's similar with the homeowner process, whether you're, again, remodeling or buying a home — I mean, buying a piece of equipment. You'd go through an audit, get a pre-retrofit label and work scope and then do the work and verify. So the pieces at the bottom are basically what is gonna help stand up an effective market, and that means some consistency with worker certification and training, tools that can help scale up the market, like HES PRO, and information and quality assurance that can also improve what's going on, including the audit procedures and retrofit procedures. We talked about some consistency there.
Okay, next slide. And I think that this is — that we've stated this already, but I want to make sure that — back one — that it's clear that the proposed long term implementation for this is gonna be something that's going to have to be done in partnership with lots of different folks. We want to support the existing retrofit industry that's out there, and we think we're gonna have to support other organizations to certify workers, accredit training programs and conduct quality assurance. While we will help create a basis for that, DOE is not gonna be in the business of doing those functions itself. And I think we mentioned this earlier, that we are planning to develop a comparable program for new and existing commercial buildings, although we're not there yet. We decided to start with the residential market, particularly given the work that's, as Kathleen explained earlier, going to be ramping down from the weatherization program.
Okay, you guys, next slide. This chart — I'm certainly not gonna go through all these words, but basically this is not a comprehensive chart, but it does give you an idea of some of the deliverables that we are trying to work on, and some of the steps we think are important to getting us to the point where we can launch a program and have these six robust components. You'll see that a few of them have asterisks next to those, and those just — that means that they were specifically mentioned and called for by the recovery to retrofit final report, the report that was done out of the office of the vice president. And
so clearly we are gonna meet those deadlines and have already met some of them, but we have additional metrics and measures that we have in here as well.
The next couple of slides, again, I'm not gonna go through every one of these questions, but I just wanted to point out that we think there are a lot of additional questions that we need to study and look into and talk to stakeholders about, and these are some of them. It's not a comprehensive list, but some of these questions we think we're gonna be able to address and illuminate the answers to through pilots. And other work I think we're gonna have to do through additional DOE research or discussions or other kinds of efforts with a broader audience. We've divided it up into accuracy, I've already talked about how we need to satisfy the needs of lenders, or even if there is a — potentially an incentive program at the federal or state or local level.
Clearly, people are gonna have to demonstrate that they've been able to reach a level of performance in order to qualify for those incentives. So whether it's private sector financing or public sector financing if that happens, you're gonna need to be able to have quality information that can be relied upon. We think it's — it would be terrific if folks could help us understand what kind of data that we should be collecting at the national level and how to make this as not burdensome as possible, and how we could exchange data. Clearly there's some privacy issues on certain things, but how could data exchange be facilitated where appropriate.
Next slide. One back. Here are some questions on the performance metric and label. We are still thinking about, you know, whether there would be an absolute or relative scale, whether we should use site versus source as the basis for our metric. I think sometimes people think we have this all wrapped up. That's a misconception, because we don't, and we're still considering all of these issues. Although I think what we do feel good about is that we've at least identified what the issues are and what kinds of information DOE should be providing to benefit the market. Quality assurance I've already mentioned. It's critically important to a successful program, and we're trying to figure out how you can make that happen and what kinds of entities are best suited to ensure that quality is maintained.
Okay, next slide. And this is our last slide. There are more than these next steps, but these are a few key ones. We certainly would appreciate your feedback, either right now — you can type in questions and we can try to respond to them, or you can also send e-mails to this address for the next week. We will monitor that website — that e-mail address and try to get back to folks, either through FAQ's or something on the web. We will post this and we'll send out a link to that when we follow up in an e-mail from the webinar.
There are gonna be a number of opportunities. This is not an exhaustive list of efforts that we will have to engage stakeholders. We have something coming up at the ACI conference in Austin, Texas, in April, and we look forward to having a fruitful discussion
there with lots of you and others about this overall approach. We're gonna have some topic oriented webinars. This one obviously was pretty general, but we will have others that focus on workforce issues or label performance measures, all the different topics that are of interest. And I should point out that we are planning to write and issue a request for information that we hope to get out in the next few months, and that will likely cover performance metrics and labels. So there will be a formal way that people can actually provide input to what we're doing, but it's certainly not the only way.
We have a meeting planned on workforce certification and training, and there will be additional forms. And I already mentioned that we are starting the HUD/FHA pilot. It's under design right now, but we hope it will get launched and start doing it, with actual homes being assessed in April — April or May. And with that, we'd be happy to take questions. Oh, I should also point out that this recorded webinar will be posted as well, not just the slides, if anybody is interested in hearing it again or passing it on to someone else.
Okay, we're trying to read these questions and get back to you. This one? You can certainly have a copy of the presentation, and we will send you the link. I think somebody wrote that in. As I mentioned, we'll send you a link to where it will be posted in the next couple of days.
You can certainly send us your comments to the e-mail that I provided on that slide. Let's see. FHA is already involved. Someone asked if they were already involved in the pilot, and we are working closely with them to design that. So it's being done in concert with them, and we're talking to others too about other pilots.
And I guess on the FHA front, too, we have signed a new MOU with HUD, which is now, what, a couple months old, and it's under the structure of an MOU, to go and investigate these issues and — and roll out sort of a phased approach to looking at the role that information can play in helping people do these retrofits, as well as to engage the financial markets. I mean, there's also questions, I think, about how we're working with BPI or other certification programs out there. These are the types of questions that we will be picking up as part of our meeting next month on our approach to the workforce certification. We are trying to break these things down into pieces and have these very topic oriented discussions. And that's when we would be showing and talking through what our approach would be on some of these certification issues.
And the certifications would obviously be for different types of work categories — worker categories. We're trying to read these as we — sorry about that. We are coordinating with EPA. There was a question, or a couple questions, about that. In fact, we have a meeting coming up this week, where we're gonna go through lots of these issues. We've already met with them and continue to talk to them on a regular basis. Obviously it's not just private sector or state and local programs that are out there, but clearly EPA has been doing a lot of this work for a long time.
Yeah, cause there's a question in how will this labeling program work with the Energy Star program, and I guess there's a two part answer to that question. First, we are really focused here on residential and really on the residential and tools that we can bring to the retrofit marketplace. And so where EPA has done most of its work with building benchmarks is in the commercial arena, DOE is working hand in hand with EPA to keep promoting the commercial approach and tools that are out there and are really focused on the residential side right now. I guess the other area that EPA works with on the — in the residential area is Energy Star new homes, and what we are hoping is that as we go down the path here, you know, Energy Star keeps being a mark for high performance for new homes, and that we're really trying to help consumers understand the fuller range of energy performance of homes, sort of beyond just the high — high watermark for — for efficient new homes.
There's also a question with whether we are coordinating with EPA to address the issue of renovation. Indeed, we are. We've been working with EPA through the weatherization program and the — and making sure, at least from the weatherization standpoint, as those people are getting trained in home weatherization, that they are trained on these issues as well. And our audit protocols will be looking at — at those issues.
I think there's also some questions as to where — how we actually believe that this rating program is going to incent retrofits, and I think as we look at what the barriers are that are out there, the — sort of the bottom line is that there is no one policy that's going to make retrofits happen. I think that we need is a comprehensive set of tools that bring sort of the — all the key solutions to the table for the homeowner. That's why what we're designing here has so many different pieces to it. It's got — it's trying to bring in the quality workforce, quality assessment tools, good information to the consumer and access to financing as well.
And then I think the other piece of this is working hand in hand with state and local governments and other stakeholders to really figure out how to do the education and marketing to help incent or encourage these retrofits. And in that area, DOE has two other activities underway that we think will bring a lot of good information to the table about how to do that. One is our retrofit ramp up program, where the really — the intent there is to be demonstrating or experimenting with programs that bring many of these key features to the table, and we'll be having those awards come out over the next couple of weeks. We're expecting in the range of eight to 20 awards, as we said in the solicitation. So those are made and those awards stand up.
Those pilots, I think there will be a lot of important information and learning for all of us. At the same time, we have a request for comment that just closed on some grant money under the SEP, where the target purpose was strengthening building retrofit programs across the residential and commercial marketplace. So we're also looking forward to furthering that process, so we can be partnering with — with interested parties on that. And that should be out the end of this month, end of March.
We're trying to read the questions and answer them at the same time, so we're losing track of a few, I think. But there's no date set for the May meeting. That's an easy one, on workforce, but we certainly will have that soon.
There was a question about how we're gonna be doing the asset versus operational assessment with the pilot, with FHA, and the HES tool is designed to look at — at the asset side, but we certainly will be collecting utility data as well, so we can look at both. There was a question on the timeline for commercial buildings and what our program will be there and how we'll be developing it. We are trying to develop it simultaneously, although it's just not moving quite as quickly as this, given the commitment we have to recovery to retrofit. But I think we'll be ready to launch something next year, maybe.
Right. Okay, Kathleen. There was a question about the flow chart. It's certainly not perfect, that flow chart, and there was a question about if you already know you want to do the work, you have to have two audits. I don't think you necessarily have to have two audits. The question was whether or not you had enough information — I mean, the issue is whether you had enough information to start the work. Once you have enough information that you feel — the contractor feels is sufficient to undertake the work effectively and know what needs to be done, I don't think you need another audit.
There is a question on DOE's legislative authority. DOE does have the legislative authority to develop and provide information to the marketplace that can help advance energy efficiency. So, you know, I think it is very important to underscore that this is a framework that we're developing that others in the marketplace will take and use voluntarily. So we do have the legislative authority to go and develop those types of tools and analytical frameworks that others can then take and use to meet their objectives.
We — we — there's a question as to how this national program would relate to Home Star. I think, you know, Home Star being the jobs bill that's being discussed on the Hill is largely a rebate program based on different sets of measures. Certainly to the extent that this can be stood up and we can partner with interested organizations in the timeframe that the Home Star rebates are out there, these would be complementary. I think that's — I mean, I think they complement each other, and really the pressure would be on us to get — resolve a lot of the issues that Joan Glickman just teed up, get this out there and then work