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Project Category:  Residential
Project Title:  Nunnawauk Meadows  Energy Retrofits
Contact:  Kathy Quinn, Newtown Clean Energy Task Force
Email:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone:  203-482-2006

Leading Group(s):   Newtown Clean Energy Task Force in collaboration with HE_Solutions, Northeast Utilities

It is often hard to bring energy-efficiency improvements to the top of a busy person’s agenda. When that person is financially challenged, it can be harder. “Income-eligible” households in Connecticut can receive a completely free visit from Home Energy Solutions, the state-sponsored program that provides assessment of home performance (from building envelope to boilers) and on-the-spot improvements such as air sealing and lighting replacements.  A campaign to inform and involve low-income communities in these immediate benefits is a great project for a local Task Force. But it can be daunting.  State programs are not always viewed with trust.  Low-income households may be tenants, and need landlord approval for some of the improvements. And if the low-income housing is in need of other repairs – for example, cleanup of mold or asbestos – then the basic “blower door” test to locate air leaks cannot be done because it reduces air pressure in the home, potentially drawing the mold or asbestos into the air.  Resourceful local groups have addressed these challenges by working directly with landlords and with entire neighborhoods. 

Project Description:  The Newtown Clean Energy Task Force considered it important to bring energy saving benefits to households that most needed financial help.  Newtown doesn’t have a really high population of low-income people but they are part of the community.  Town staff, like social services and tax assessor, know who has the real need. Among the most financially struggling, there is a real reluctance to let people into their house.  The Nunnawauk Meadows senior housing community came to the Task Force’s attention as a good focus for their efforts.  Located in the center of town, the complex has small apartments that are all electric.  Tenants pay their electric bills so they care about saving, and some had attended Task Force events. It is a close-knit community, allowing new ideas to spread easily. The Director has good relationship with tenants so can serve as a champion for an experiment in energy saving.

The Newtown Task Force started as an ad hoc committee around 2006. After some preparatory steps such as choosing clean energy vendors and making a commitment to the state’s clean energy goals, the group decided there was a lot more we wanted to accomplish. They went to Board of Selectmen and asked to be formally appointed.  They started with a campaign to enroll households in the Connecticut Clean Energy Option – having your electricity bought from clean sources -- as an easy step. That led to awareness of Home Energy Solutions as a way to make homes use less energy overall.   Northeast Utilities staff offered guidance in setting up a program to bring HES to the entire community, and engage vendors with a special interest in low-income neighborhoods.  Those vendors agreed to chip in donations for every audit.  The Task Force coordinated a letter campaign to notify all the residents, and collected over $10,000 for the fuel bank.  That was the foundation for the HES campaign.

Project Team:  Task Force leadership, Vivian Perez from HE-Solutions, Marge Kelly from CL & P, Nunnawauk Meadows Executive Director.

Project Planning:  The Task Force developed its plan in early 2012 through discussions with advocates in the clean energy community such as outreach staff at Community Energy and Northeast Utilities.   They got the First Selectman on board early.  Kathy Quinn signed up for the audit and upgrade service right away, in her own home,  to create a case study.  Her experience and endorsement were folded into a letter to every household signed by the mayor.  In addition, the local nonprofit food bank was brought in as a beneficiary of donations for every home audit.  In accordance with Connecticut’s assistance program, the utilities assigned the project to a certified vendor, HE-Solutions.    “After we put the framework in place, we were happy to leave implementation to the pros,” says Quinn.

Project Resources:  Fuel bank funding, earned points for $10,000 Bright Idea grant from C L & P.  Utility and CEFIA support.  Volunteer strength.

Project Results:  Newtown’s Home Energy Solutions campaign has reached 12% of households overall. In Nunawauk Meadows, they got all but 1 person.  Measurable savings are being tracked by Northeast Utilities. Clearly, though, the residents felt the benefits. Much of the work was done in the winter, and lots of folks said “It’s so much cozier now.”

Lessons Learned:   It’s hard getting the word out. Even this past Earth Day, with two vendors getting signups, it was work. Says Quinn,  “To me it’s a no-brainer, even if you pay the $99 you get so much more value.  But it is really a lot of work, repeat effort, keep on it to get the word out and penetrate people’s awareness.  We chose good vendors and the communication was very relaxed.  Vivian Perez of HE-Solutions adds, “Organization is the true foundation for these campaigns – from the scheduling of appointments to the collection and analysis of data.  Because we carefully analyzed what the building didn’t need – like more insulation – we could focus on what was really most needed, like appliance upgrades.” Now the Task Force is adding points of distribution for information that can be available all the time at the Municipal Center and also the old Town Hall which is now the movie theatre.   Kathy Quinn sums up, “It was work. It was worth it. And the most needed work of reaching the rest of the community may be the hardest.  But we’re on it.”  

Resources

 

Community Updates

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In the recent approval of the 2016-18 Conservation and Load Management (CL&M) Plan by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), there is good news and not-so-good news... Read More

 

 

Calendar Highlights

FALL GATHERING

HIGHLIGHTS OF CT’s FALL GATHERING of clean energy task forces can be found here in our Knowledge Center’s Program Archives pages. Diane Duva (the Director of Energy Demand at DEEP’s Bureau of Energy and Technology Policy is pictured here) facilitating the shaping of our state’s energy future.

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Clean Energy Communities Listening Session Letter of Thanks and Follow-up

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