Following early success in helping South Seattle customers who do not use English as their primary language, Seattle City Light is expanding its Powerful Neighborhoods pilot program to help people save energy, water, and money.
“Energy efficient light bulbs and low-flow fixtures might sound like small steps, but they do make a difference, especially for families living with tight budgets,” City Councilmember Bruce Harrell said. “This program also shows how energy conservation can create green jobs in every community.”
“This door-to-door effort is breaking down barriers that can limit participation in traditional energy efficiency programs among senior citizens, low-income families and residents with limited English skills,” program manager Andy Silber said. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for them to save money by reducing their energy and water use.”
Powerful Neighborhoods was launched in April to provide direct installation of compact fluorescent light bulbs, faucet aerators and smoke detectors while also providing low-flow showerheads residents could install themselves. Now, City Light is adding leak testing for toilets and checks for proper installation of clothes dryer vents to the program.
While the pilot project is open to anyone living in the Seattle portions of ZIP codes 98126, 98106, 98134, 98108, 98144, 98118, 98178, it targets senior citizens, low-income residents, and households where English is not the primary language. The project has served more than 1,900 households. Two thirds of those customers are seniors, low-income residents or have limited English skills.
City Light is contracting with the Smart Energy Collaborative and the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle to canvass the neighborhoods door-to-door and make the installations. Installers for the community organizations speak more than a dozen languages and many live in the area.
One of the early lessons from the pilot is how important existing relationships can be for reaching residents with limited English skills. The environmental coalition, in particular, is leveraging its community connections to get those residents to participate. Nearly half the households served by that community group use something other than English as their primary language, including Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Amharic and Cambodian.
The goal is to improve the energy and water efficiency of 10,000 homes by the end of the year, which would save about 25 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. That’s an average savings of about $40 a year for each household. If the pilot project continues to be successful, it could be offered in other neighborhoods.
The project is being paid for with $500,000 of federal stimulus package money and about $1.2 million from City Light. Smoke detectors are being provided by the Washington State Department of Health under a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Seattle City Light is the ninth largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.