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Weatherization Assistance Program on pace to meet, exceed goals

March 02, 2011

Weatherization Assistance Program on pace to meet, exceed goals

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, March 2, 2011

State putting federal dollars to good use making homes energy efficient, creating jobs

ST. PAUL, MN -Minnesota is on pace to meet its goal of weatherizing 17,000 homes by June 2011 using federal funds awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Between April 1, 2009 and January 31, 2011, Minnesota weatherized 12,955 homes using ARRA funds, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Office of Energy Security (OES), which administers the state's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). That represents roughly 76 percent of the state's goal.

"We are well on our way to realizing the goals set out three years ago," said Mike Rothman, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce. "And because we used these funds with the utmost efficiency, prudence, and speed, Minnesota will likely exceed those goals this year."

According to Rothman, while saving energy and money for the clients it has served, WAP has also had a positive impact on Minnesota's economy at a time when the state needed it most. A recent University of Minnesota Extension study found that for every direct job funded by the program, another ¾ of a job has been created in the   private sector in the state.

The Extension study also concluded that each dollar spent on weatherization generates an additional $1.09 of economic activity in Minnesota. For every dollar earned by a weatherization worker, an additional $0.86 is earned by workers in other state industries.

"This program has had a tangible impact on our communities, the economy, and Minnesotans," Rothman said. "It has been a   welcome resource for saving energy for low income families and providing work for insulation and furnace contractors in an otherwise difficult economic time."

Just ask Bill Hane of Walker, Minnesota. Hane owns a small construction business. In 2008, his wife contracted breast cancer and lost her health insurance. Around that time, construction projects started to slow down. The recession was hard on Hane's family, and hard on his business.

Recently, Hane applied to be a weatherization contractor. With new work created by WAP, Hane has been able to re-hire two of his former employees, and may hire another this year.

"In my experience, the weatherization stimulus dollars are doing a lot of good for a lot of people in Minnesota."

Kevin Schmidtke, who works for Hane Construction, agrees. After learning about air sealing techniques from Hane, Schmidtke air sealed his own home. He paid just $60 for the necessary construction materials, and in one year reduced his gas and electric bills from $4,000 per year to just $1,600.

After learning more about weatherization, Schmidtke realized his family was eligible for WAP home improvements paid for by ARRA dollars. Bi-County Community Action Programs (BICAP) assessed Schmidtke's home and installed new insulation and vitalization fans in his bathroom and kitchen. That reduced his annual gas bill from $1,200 to just $900. Schmidtke paid $400 for his electric bill last year, but hasn't even turned it on this season.

"This program has been a God-send for a lot of people out here," said Schmidtke. "For what people are putting into these simple efficiency improvements, they are getting a lot back. It is well-worth the reward."

According to OES Deputy Commissioner Bill Grant, Hane's and Schmidtke's stories are just several of thousands throughout the State of Minnesota. "It is easy to reduce a program like this to a list of acronyms and line items," Grant said. "But when you dig a little deeper you see that these are real energy solutions, real jobs, and real people."

Recent estimates show that ARRA dollars administered through WAP have created or retained 570 direct jobs in Minnesota, supporting another 430 indirect jobs.

OES partners with 32 local service providers in the state to implement the Weatherization Assistance Program. Eligible homeowners and renters receive an energy audit to determine the most cost-effective weatherization measures to be implemented in their homes.

Weatherization services typically provided include exterior wall and attic insulation, air leak sealing, and energy education. Safety and efficiency testing is also conducted to determine repairs or replacement of home heating systems.

More information about WAP can be found on the Department of Commerce website at http://mn.gov/commerce/energy/service-providers/For-WAP-Providers/WAP-Wire.jsp.