At the start of the New Year, Clark County will provide homeowners with a new resource in fighting the battle of energy inefficiency.
Starting Jan. 1, the county plans to promote work done by Portland-based Clean Energy Works, a nonprofit that provides in-house energy efficiency audits. Once an audit is completed, the organization connects homeowners with contractors who can do the work, in addition to providing financing options, if they’re necessary.
Promoting the program wouldn’t cost the county, although residents will receive resources as a result of its implementation, said county Administrator Mark McCauley.
“We will leverage their expertise,” McCauley said. “Hopefully, people in the county will benefit because they will get more energy efficient homes.”
McCauley pitched the idea to county commissioners after meeting with representatives of Clean Energy Works. The commissioners gave a nod of approval to the program but did so while noting one point of concern.
Commissioner Tom Mielke had questions about the program, saying he was curious what the nonprofit gained from the partnership. He also said he was worried about liability issues the county could face if it “promoted” work that was shoddy.
“I become a little bit concerned about the legality portion of it or the implication that we’ve endorsed them and people come back and say the county is somewhat responsible,” Mielke said.
However, Commissioner David Madore didn’t see it that way, and said he thought it was a no-brainer for the county to promote a program.
McCauley said the county wouldn’t promote any contractors. A list of potential contractors would come directly from Clean Energy Works.
The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s office is looking into whether there are any legal hurdles to cross, but McCauley said he’s confident the county would sponsor the program by Jan. 1. Clark Public Utilities is also contemplating a partnership with the nonprofit.
The nonprofit program would come on top of a clean energy program the county already provides. The existing program provides weatherization assistance and air duct sealing to homeowners who meet low-income thresholds.
The program through Clean Energy Works would not be income restricted. The program has partners with several other jurisdictions in the Northwest, including Seattle and Ashland, Ore.
Since the program began, it has provided 3,800 upgrades, at a total cost of $71 million. Thirty-five prime contractors and 200 subcontractors have gotten into the action, with the average wage being $21.39 an hour.
Contractors who participate in the program will be paid the prevailing wage.
McCauley sees the program as an economic generator of sorts because the program will match homeowners with local businesses interested in doing the work of weatherization, roof repairs or any other energy-saving project.
“To me,” McCauley said, “it looks like a good fit.”