This morning, Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle and Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler will announce the official launch of the reEnergize Program, a community initiative to fundamentally transform the energy efficiency market in the Greater Omaha/Greater Lincoln area.
In November 2009, the cities of Omaha and Lincoln collaborated on a grant for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Competitive Program from the Department of Energy. This program was initially known as Retrofit Ramp-up and subsequently renamed the BetterBuildings Program. The DOE prioritized energy efficiency programs that would lead to market transformation through whole-neighborhood retrofitting, with a focus on existing buildings. In addition, the programs selected needed to be replicable and scalable to other communities and maximize the creation and/or retention of jobs. In April 2010, the Department of Energy notified Omaha and Lincoln that they were one of 25 applicants selected to receive an award.
The reEnergize Program received $10 million to design an approach that will help catalyze the energy evaluation and upgrade markets in the residential and commercial building sectors. This Program is designed to help consumers overcome existing market barriers including access to quality information, access to financing, and access to a skilled workforce. The approach will include standardizing services, pre-qualifying contractors, and streamlining data collection.
"I'm honored we were selected for this important federal funding. The reEnergize Program will allow Omaha and Lincoln to become regional leaders in energy saving practices," said Mayor Jim Suttle. "As the two largest cities in Nebraska, we have a duty to lead by example. This program will foster innovation, provide jobs, and help move our great cities forward."
While there are many reasons to invest in energy efficiency, Mayor Beutler said knowing which improvements to make and how to pay for them can be barriers. "The reEnergize program is going straight at this knot in the market, and working to untie it for building owners in our two cities," he said. "Once that knot is loosened, I believe the market for energy upgrades will surge in Nebraska, creating jobs, savings, and efficiencies that will be a boon for our cities for decades to come. ReEnergize Omaha and Lincoln, working through multiple public-private strategies to boost access to energy efficiency information, financing, and skilled workers, is a home run for our cities."
Over the next two and a half years, the reEnergize Program will develop and implement a set of innovative tools to help build market capacity. Working closely with community Leverage Partners, the Program will focus on workforce development, small business support, financial mechanisms, consumer information, neighborhood advocacy, and product accessibility.
Residents and businesses from select areas within each city, called Start Zones, will have the opportunity to participate, regardless of their income level. Participants will receive technical assistance, service discounts, and financial incentives.
The launch includes the release of a new program website www.reEnergizeProgram.org which will help facilitate participant enrollment, provide information about the program, and inform contractors about upcoming opportunities.