Comprehensive Community Energy Program with Financing Incentives

Grant # 96-06
Principal Investigator: Patti Cale-Finnegan
Organization: Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities
Subcontractor: Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation
Technical Area: Energy Efficiency/Information Transfer

Background and Significance:
With the restructuring of the electric utility industry on the horizon in the late 1990’s, utilities and other community organizations struggled with how to continue to offer energy efficiency services.

Project Objectives:
The goal of this project was to explore these issues and create models that might be useful a new environment. Staff from the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities and Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation worked with municipal utilities and community organizations to develop programs that addressed the goal of making programs more market-oriented, while also meeting community needs, energy efficiency goals, utility budgets, and customer preferences.

Work to Date:
The project started in three pilot communities: Harlan, Osage and Webster City. In Webster City, the program was developed in conjunction with the Rebuild Iowa program. The lessons learned from these pilot communities were used to develop similar programs in Cedar Falls and Cascade.

While each community was different, and therefore each program had unique elements, there were some common issues and program features. Each of the programs featured utility involvement, contractor participation, energy assessments, customer education and local financing.

Materials developed in each of the community programs, including brochures, program manuals, technical manuals and promotional materials, have been used by other communities.

A manual entitled, “Financing Energy Efficiency Improvements: Issues and Options for Utilities and Community Organizations,” was produced, using lessons learned and models from community projects in Iowa and around the nation. The manual discusses the following:

  • key issues in financing energy improvements;
  • using financing to develop efficient markets;
  • the features of financing that attract participation by customers;
  • utility perspective on financing – risks and rewards;
  • legal issues;
  • non-utility financing options; and
  • how utilities can help secure customer financing.

The appendices provide program examples from Harlan and Osage, as well as information on a non-utility financing program.

The manual has been used by the Rebuild Iowa program and other utilities and community organizations that are exploring the creation of innovative energy efficiency services.