REAP

 COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION OF MENDOCINO COUNTY

RESPONSIBLE ENERGY AWARENESS PRACTICES (REAP) PROGRAM

Agency Snapshot

Name: Community Development Commission of Mendocino County

Location: Ukiah, CA

Employees: 19

“The REAP program saves money in current time while making energy efficiency investments that will save money in the future.  It is just good business.”

- Todd Crabtree, Executive Director

Community Development Commission of Mendocino County

Summary

The Community Development Commission of Mendocino County (CDC) created the Responsible Energy Awareness Practices (REAP) program in 2012.  Funded by a 2011 Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) Innovator Pilot grant, REAP is the first known energy efficiency and sustainability behavioral-based program designed specifically for California Public Housing Authorities.

The goal of REAP was to provide a no or low-cost process for integrating energy efficiency practices into PHAs’ policies and operating procedures so that these practices become business as usual.  By adopting energy efficiency practices, PHAs reduce energy consumption, thereby reducing their energy bills.

CDC’s Development & Sustainability Department set out to design a program that would influence behavior of PHA employees so that energy efficiency decision-making was seen as a necessity- and business as usual.  Department staff developed new human resources procedures, new procurement and purchasing procedures, and an energy audit capital planning tool.

 

Program Highlights

  • Implemented REAP at CDC facilities from January to July 2013; Over a six month period, we saved about 18% in energy costs (compared to the same six month period in 2012) and are now eligible for ENERGY STAR ® certification
  • Created a new procurement and purchasing procedure consistent with state and federal regulations that incorporates energy savings into purchasing decisions
  • Educated nearly 650 low-income clients and property owners in energy efficiency and sustainability
  • Positively influenced staff morale through friendly energy efficiency competitions and awards for changing behavior at the office
  • Significantly increased staff awareness of energy efficiency and sustainability; energy efficiency decision-making now business as usual at CDC PHA
  • Developed an equipment capital plan and energy auditing tool for maximizing rebates and cost savings at the PHA
  • Expanded the CDC personnel handbook to include energy efficiency information,  policies and procedure

 

Lessons Learned

  • PHAs have tens of thousands of housing units but are a relatively underserved sector of local government; potential for energy savings through REAP implementation is tremendous
  • Changing behavior of any kind is difficult; subtle changes to policies and procedures are often more effective (and adoptable) than large changes
  • There is a large gap between information about energy efficiency and rebates and how to incorporate energy efficiency into a PHA’s decision-making; a behavioral based model like REAP is necessary to bridge this gap
  • Because PHAs must follow federal regulations and mandates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), it is important to integrate REAP with existing HUD programs

 

The Rest of the Story

Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) own and/or manage public housing units and administer low-income rental assistance programs for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  The effects of over a decade of budget cuts and Congressional sequestration have left many PHAs with very little funding, and energy efficiency and sustainability projects are often seen as luxuries rather than necessities.

Even in the face of these budgetary challenges, REAP has proven a behavioral-based model can be effective for changing a PHA’s approach towards energy efficiency.  REAP has improved staff morale while driving down energy costs.

Little changes have lead to big results.  Whether it was remembering to shut off lights when leaving an office, printing to a network printer, weatherizing offices, or using the programmable thermostat functionality there was much variability in employee behavior.  Through REAP, all employees contributed in small ways to being more energy efficient. Results- i.e. saving over 18% in energy consumption in six months- were impressive.

 

Additional Details – REAP

CDC’s REAP program offers an innovative and replicable model to assist public housing authorities in facilitating market transformation within their internal operations and in the community by embedding energy efficiency practices into their policies and procedures.

Management and administration of public housing authorities and local governments often involves overlapping operational responsibilities.  With limited funding, there can be a lack of knowledge about energy efficiency and energy issues.  REAP integrates energy efficiency practices with agencies’ policies and procedures, while also teaching employees to be energy champions.  This is accomplished without additional loss to organizational capacity.

Through REAP, CDC created a procurement and purchasing policy for PHAs that incorporated long-term energy savings into cost analyses while still being consistent with local, state and federal rules and regulations.  CDC also created an energy auditing and capital planning tool and “Energy Scorecard” to allow the Board of Commissioners and staff to track energy savings resulting from these procedural changes.

At the conclusion of REAP, 94% of CDC employees said they considered energy efficiency to be a vital part of their work at CDC.