Thursday, October 10, 2013

Why I refuse to participate in Energy Upgrade California


When I first heard of Energy Upgrade California I was excited. Energy upgrade packages for existing homes with rebates sounded awesome. I attended the ACI conference in LA which was the kick off. The event was interesting as we heard from program developers of how the program would be initiated. I also attended some orientation sessions at the CCSE. I liked what I heard. As my business is primarily residential repairs and upgrades I thought this would be a perfect fit.

What I have found is the program is not what I expected.  I have sat on the sidelines refusing to critique or participate in the system. I think I have given it a long enough run and now I will explain my concerns.
The upgrades are consistent with Energy Pro calculations that estimate energy savings. Now to be fair I know a base has to be somewhere and Energy Pro is certainly a capable program. But the estimates are just that estimates. Living in San Diego and having the most mild climate makes modeling savings a challenge. While our money from the Utilities and the State of California is taken at the same percentages our rebates are severely compromised. We get less of the pie but no less of our contribution to this pie. This is simply not fair.

The system is very much geared toward equipment. An example would be that often duct sealing and air sealing have very low margins but replacing a HVAC has a high bar. Water Heater upgrades from the standard tank to a tank less have large margins. These margins often do not reflect real world savings.
Those that do not currently have HVAC and are looking to replace legacy furnaces and upgrade to AC see no benefit as an AC system was not in place to begin with and therefore may not be modeled. Because of this they might chose a less efficient model based on the rules of the program which is not the spirit of the program in my mind.

Work scope is controlled by an outside group. As a contractor this is what I find really problematic. I have to stand behind a  work scope not of my nor my customers choosing.  My initial audit is rendered useless as  program administrators duplicate the same process and then provide me with the accepted work scope. This duplicity makes no sense and our tax/utility dollars are wasted in the process. The original audit should simply be performed by the outside service if they control the work scope. Furthermore as the contractor I am married to a work scope that I might not agree with and responsible 100% of any liabilities that might arise in the future. I personally am not comfortable with such as system.

I must note that is not the CCSE I am criticizing.  I have always held a high opinion of CCSE here in San Diego and still do. The staff has always been responsive and eager to help. They have provided training classes and opportunities to connect with other professionals. They still provide this high level service as well as countless others. They listen to concerns and attempt to be as proactive as they can. I would have been far more comfortable with them running the program which sadly is not the case.

As we move forward control of such programs to ensure that tax/rate payer dollars are not wasted, upgrades are performed and provide reasonable work scope is imperative.  However having a quasi government organization with autocratic control over the entire program and 100 percent QA does not seem like a wise nor cost effective way to proceed in the future.  Furthermore rebates should be equitable for improvements regardless of weather conditions. 

This system is sadly broken. In conclusion I chose not to participate and see no reason to in the future. 


  1. Hi Glen,

    I am sad to hear about your experience and opinion of EUC. I want to say that what you have described is not exactly the way the program runs in the SDG&E territory.

    First of all, Energy Upgrade California is meant to provide an incentive to customers to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes with the goal of using less energy. If a customer started with no AC and wants to add AC, no matter how efficient that new AC is, it is an increase in energy consumption. That being said, there are still other incentives available for that situation outside of EUC.

    While I agree that going from a tanked to tankless water heater shows a higher savings than is realistic, I would not say that all savings are biased towards equipment. Duct sealing is often the biggest bang for your buck. Duct Sealing and Air Sealing are performance based and are not based on an assumed load like water heating.

    As far as a dictated SOW, in SDG&E area we only approve the SOW under advanced path. This review is to make sure the SOW meets program specifications. We would only request a change to your SOW if it didn't meet our program standards. In Home Upgrade the SOW is not reviewed as the savings are deemed from the existing CEC Deer database. You simply check the boxes to determine the SOW and anything else you do is between you and the customer.

    I appreciate you taking the time to express your concerns with the program and we would like the opportunity to sit down and address those concerns and see if perhaps their are some changes you may not have heard about that will make the program work for you. Contact myself, or ICF, CCSE, SDG&E to schedule a lunch. It is on me!

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