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Energy Efficiency Programs in a COVID-19 World

As an energy efficiency program designer and evaluator, I receive a lot of questions about the future of energy efficiency programs in the midst of the pandemic. Many utility program implementers have pivoted to virtual energy audits and shifted their messaging in Home Energy Reports to focus on additional ways to save energy during these uncertain times. 

Other continued operations on a smaller scale. For example, the utilities in Arkansas used this pause in operations  to increased installations of energy-efficient HVAC equipment in hotels and schools--with the implementers taking advantage of these closed facilities. 

Some programs have stopped operating out of concern for both customers and contractors.  Weatherization programs have shut down as have many direct install C&I programs. And there will no doubt be long-term impacts from these missed opportunities. 

But energy efficiency program designers, implementers, and evaluators are a creative group--and we will figure out work-arounds to resume program operations and also new strategies to document energy savings.

It's a new world for all of us, but the energy efficiency has bounced back before from economic downturns and funding short-falls. Energy programs are resilient--just like the professionals that design, implement, and evaluate them. 


Katherine Johnson's picture

Thank Katherine for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 6, 2020 4:23 pm GMT

Thanks for the insights and pep talk, Katherine!

While we're certainly going to get back to normal eventually (...right??), do you see any long-term impacts sticking around from the adjustments made during 2020? Will virtual audits become more common even when social distancing isnt' required, for example? 

Katherine Johnson's picture
Katherine Johnson on Aug 6, 2020 7:58 pm GMT

Absolutely. Virtual audits are going to be part of the new energy efficiency toolbox for both implementers and evaluators. COVID-19 has forced EE professionals to be more creative and some of these new innovations, like better messaging for HERs and virtual audits, are positive outcomes from this experience. But the entire community will have to readjust to a new "normal" rather than assuming it's going to return to Business as Usual.


Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Aug 7, 2020 2:13 pm GMT


Thanks for sharing this.  Very interesting about Arkansas taking advantage of closed facilities.  I would love to hear about more programs like this. Great way to pivot.  I hate to see some of the momentum in EE lost due to COVID.  

Do you also see a shift in focus given that many of the customer service teams have had to shift their attention to handling the increased number of residents that aren't able to pay their bills now?  Also, I would think there may be some safety concerns in inner cities with some of the riots as well as COVID.

I would love to hear from the community.  What are you seeing - what programs are on hold, what programs have accelerated given some closures of large facilities and more... 

Karen Marcus's picture
Karen Marcus on Aug 13, 2020 11:05 pm GMT

Katherine, do you see any differences in the way this situation is playing out in various parts of the U.S.?

Katherine Johnson's picture
Katherine Johnson on Aug 17, 2020 2:09 pm GMT

Yes. There are definite regional differences. For example, California programs have stopped completely. Programs in other states have retrenched, but are still operating. Virtual audits are one way that programs are continuing to operate. Utilities are also continuing with the Home Energy Reports and energy savings kits. But overall, momentum has stopped completely for weatherization programs in the East and Mid-Atlantic states as well. 


Mike Cassity's picture
Mike Cassity on Aug 14, 2020 6:12 pm GMT

Katherine thanks for sharing. 

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