Mayor’s Home Energy Challenge Earns Award from Focus on Energy
La Crosse, Wis. – A unique collaboration between the City of La Crosse, FOCUS ON ENERGY® and Xcel Energy has earned the City of La Crosse a 2019 Energy Efficiency Excellence Award.
The award, which Focus on Energy bestows to groups that have shown a commitment to energy efficiency, recognizes the success of the City of La Crosse Mayor’s Home Energy Challenge.
“We had been trying for several years to increase [Focus on Energy Home Performance Program] participation in the La Crosse area,” said Lori Drilling, Energy Efficiency Programs Manager at Xcel Energy, one of 107 Wisconsin utilities that fund and partner with the Focus on Energy program. “Until the Mayor issued his Challenge, we really did have a challenge in the City of La Crosse getting that participation up.”
The City proposed the Mayor’s Home Energy Challenge as a way to help homeowners see the value of energy efficiency and get them excited about improving the comfort and energy-savings of their homes. Outreach included a letter to La Crosse residents directly from Mayor Tim Kabat, posters at local businesses, and a website where residents could learn more about the campaign and sign up.
Residents who participated were eligible for up to $4,100 in cash-back financial incentives and bonuses for making energy efficiency improvements to their homes: a maximum Focus on Energy incentive of $2,250, a maximum 60% match of incentives ($2,460) from Xcel Energy, and an additional $500 from the City of La Crosse. The first 100 residents to apply and complete projects were eligible for the trifecta of incentives.
“The real credit, especially in creative solutions like this, goes to our staff,” Mayor Kabat said upon accepting the award. “We gave them a challenge. We wanted to figure out, how [to] better participation in La Crosse. They really did a tremendous job.”
“I’m excited that you’ve created a model for other communities across the state,” said Maria Redmond, Director at the Office of Energy Innovation at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, who presented the plaque to Mayor Kabat. “You’re kicking off this model that could be shared with other communities, and this could be a statewide effort.”
The award presentation was at the 23rd Street North home of Leslie and Jerry Root, a family that took part in the mayor’s campaign.
“We knew we needed a new roof and we scheduled it for the spring,” Jerry Root started as he explained how the family got involved in the Challenge.
Severe ice dams over the winter had the family searching for solutions and the contractor they hired for the roofing job, First American, told them about the financial incentives and bonus dollars available through Focus on Energy and the Mayor’s Home Energy Challenge. That led to an energy audit from On-Site Performance Testing that identified where the Roots could make energy efficiency improvements to their home.
“They took their time, really answered all of our questions, and educated us about what we need to do; what our options are.” Leslie Root said after the award presentation.
The family then completed multiple Focus on Energy projects, including air-sealing, as well as insulation in their roof and basement.
“As a result, now our home is much more energy efficient, and cheaper to heat and cool, and more comfortable to live in,” Jerry said.
“The work was just finished a few weeks ago. We’re really looking forward to this winter, to be able to see what the difference will be.” Leslie added.
“I’m pleased that Jerry, Leslie and their son, Matt, were able to take advantage of this program,” said Sen. Jennifer Schilling, who came to congratulate Mayor Kabat and the Roots. “You’ll be able to talk to your friends, families and neighbors about it.”
The Mayor’s Home Energy Challenge launched on September 17, 2018, and, as of June 27, 2019, the program had generated:
• 653 total homeowner inquiries
• 244 home assessments scheduled and completed with a Trade Ally contractor
• 53 energy efficiency projects contracted
• 40 energy efficiency projects completed
To put that last number in perspective, La Crosse’s 2012-2017 participation in Focus on Energy’s Home Performance Program generated an average of 23 completed projects a year.
“What we’re seeing is residents in La Crosse are stepping up and starting to enjoy the many benefits associated with making smart energy decisions; enjoying more comfortable homes with reduced energy costs,” said Karl Hilker, a Senior Program Manager for Focus on Energy.
“Our mayor is an action mayor and that’s one thing that I always appreciate,” Rep. Jill Billings said while addressing Mayor Kabat at the award presentation. “If there’s a problem in the city, you [want to] think creatively and fix it… That’s what you did with your Mayor’s [Home Energy] Challenge with Focus on Energy.”
“All in all, it really exceeded even our expectations… I’d love to see us take those next steps to keep the program going,” Mayor Kabat said.
Focus on Energy is presenting 18 Energy Efficiency Excellence Awards to businesses and other groups across the state. La Crosse is the only municipality honored with the award this year.
A recent third-party evaluation noted Focus on Energy runs the most-cost-effective energy efficiency programs in the nation. It also found every $1 invested in Focus on Energy generates more than $5 in benefits for the state of Wisconsin, including economic benefits, reduced energy costs and reduced pollution.
About Focus on Energy
Focus on Energy is Wisconsin utilities' statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program funded by the state's investor-owned energy utilities and participating municipal and electric cooperative utilities. Focus on Energy works with eligible Wisconsin residents and businesses to install cost-effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Focus on Energy information, resources and financial incentives help to implement projects that otherwise would not be completed. Its efforts help Wisconsin residents and businesses manage rising energy costs, promote in-state economic development, protect our environment and control Wisconsin's growing demand for electricity and natural gas. For more information call 800.762.7077 or visit focusonenergy.com.
Photo: Maria Redmond, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, and Mayor Tim Kabat (City of La Crosse)
La Crosse, Wis.
Xcel Energy (Northern States Power)