Standards, certifications meet consumer demand for quality energy-efficiency upgrades

Consumers are catching on to the value of home energy-efficiency improvements, and building contractors are following.

Last year alone, the Building Performance Institute (BPI), the national standard-setting and credentialing organization, issued 14,571 certifications. That’s an increase of 120 percent over 2010, and represents 63 percent of the total certifications issued from 2001 to 2010. More than 22,000 home performance contractors, weatherization assistance program providers, utilities, home inspectors and other residential service providers hold a total of 31,662 active certifications.

The number of building professionals seeking BPI certification has surged since 2008. This is partly because state and local governments and utilities are getting serious about their energy efficiency programs, observed BPI Marketing and Communications Director Leslie McDowell. “They are offering substantial incentives, rebates and loans to homeowners to have their homes upgraded for energy efficiency. The workforce is reacting to that demand,” she said.

The certifications BPI offers to contractors currently include:

  • Building analysis – Focusing on whole-home assessments that go beyond traditional energy audits to identify and correct problems at the root cause through building science.
  • Building envelope – Quantifying the building shell performance and prescribing improvements to help stop uncontrolled air leakage and optimize comfort, durability and HV/AC performance.
  • Residential building envelope whole-house air leakage control installation – Installing dense-pack insulation materials to reduce energy loss from air leakage, and reduce pollutants and allergens through air migration.
  • Manufactured housing – Applying house-as-a-system fundamentals to the specific needs of various types of housing technologies.
  • Heating – Optimizing the performance of heating equipment to help save energy and ensure occupant comfort, health and safety.
  • Air conditioning and heat pumps – Integrating these systems within the whole home, and diagnosing and correcting problems to achieve peak performance.
  • Multifamily housing – Diagnosing problems and improving the performance of larger, more complex residential structures.

Starting in June 2012, BPI is adding pilot exams for new Home Energy Professional Certifications for the four most common jobs in the home energy upgrade industry— energy auditor, retrofit installer, crew leader and quality control inspector. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is supporting the development of the new certifications and chose BPI as the certifying body.

The new certifications will meet the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 17024) accreditation—the international benchmark for personnel certifications across all industries. Under ISO 17024, each new certification is developed and administered using international best practices, such as cross-disciplinary peer review and industry validation of technical materials.

BPI’s goal for the new ISO 17024-accredited certifications is to provide home energy upgrade professionals with more opportunities for career growth, while building consumer confidence in the value energy-efficiency improvements. BPI expects to roll them out nationally in the fall of 2012.

Western customers show up in DOE Top 10 Utility Green Power Programs

Public power utilities, including several Western customers, scored well in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s “Top 10” rankings of utility green power programs for 2010.

Ranked by renewable energy sales, Sacramento Municipal Utility District sold the fourth largest amount of renewable energy (kWh/year) in the nation (including investor-owned utilities). SMUD was the only public power utility to crack the top 10 in total number of customer participants in green power programs, ranking fourth in that category as well.

Using information provided by utilities, NREL developed rankings of utility green power programs for 2010 in a variety of categories. Other Western customers appearing in the Top 10 included:

NREL recently added the category of community solar programs to its ratings, giving Western customers another chance to shine. Holy Cross Energy, SMUD, St. George, Utah, and United Power placed sixth through eighth. Community solar programs allow customers to purchase a share of a solar system developed in their community and receive the benefits of the energy that is produced by their share.

The Green Power assessment was performed by NREL’s Strategic Energy Analysis Center (SEAC), which integrates technical and economic analyses and leads NREL’s efforts in applying clean energy technologies to both national and international markets.

Community Wind webinar urges utility partnerships

As part of its 2010 webinar series, U.S. DOE’s Wind Powering America program is presenting Community Wind Across America Sept. 15, 10 a.m. to noon, MDT.

The webinar will explore how consumer-owned utilities and the communities they serve can benefit from partnering with other utilities to gain economies of scale for wind projects.  Community wind projects bring together state and local economic development and policy makers with utilities and members of the agriculture and wind energy industries to advance opportunities for locally-owned clean energy production. Consumers benefit from increased diversity and grid reliability, while utilities reduce the need for new transmission lines. 

Some of the topics the agenda will cover include:

  • Local, regional and national policies                          
  • Business models
  • Financing                                                                             
  • Incentives
  • Equipment procurement                                                   
  • Construction
  • Power purchase agreements                                          
  •  Operation and maintenance

Presentations and case studies will cover practical information on how to partner in putting together a community wind project.  The information focuses on such issues as how to choose a turbine, installation and rebates and grants. The webinar will also serve as a preview for the regional Community and Small Wind Energy Conference series Windustry is sponsoring this fall. Those live events will take place in Denver, Colo., Oct. 26 to 27, St. Paul, Minn., Nov. 15 to 16, and College Station, Penn., Nov. 30 to Dec. 1.  

The main audience for the webinar is utility staff involved in developing and implementing renewable energy resource portfolios.  Other stakeholders and interested parties who can benefit from the information include farmers, ranchers, rural landowners, economic development professionals, elected officials, business leaders, tribal representatives, investors, bankers, town planners and community leaders.

Although the webinar is free, you must register to participate.  To register, e-mail your name, affiliation, address, phone and e-mail address to Guy Nelson. You will recevie the webinar’s internet and phone access numbers by noon Sept. 13.  By registering, you agree to allow your contact information to be shared with the supporters of the webinar. 

Community Wind Across America is supported by Western, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Windustry, and Wind Powering America.