Authors: Ladan Sobhani On February 18th and 19th, Green For All convened a working group of 30 practitioners from across the United States who are developing or implementing energy-efficiency retrofit programs. We brought together city staff, community organizers, finance experts,workforce development people, andbusiness and labor voices from 10 cities across the country. The convening focused on concrete discussions about the nuts and bolts of participants’ city-wide retrofit programs. Folks shared best practices from what has worked as well, the challenges they've experienced to date, and the opportunities and potential pitfalls that lie ahead. This was the second annual convening of Green For All's Retrofit America's Cities Community of Practice working group, and I was blown away by the expertise in the room and how much the field has grown and advanced in the last year. The attendees represented different pieces of the puzzle required to create a city-wide energy retrofit program that removes common barriers. For example, we learned about how Shorebank Enterprise Cascadia is helping emerging minority and women contractors overcome the financial barriers of participating in the Clean Energy Works Portland Program, by offering them “bridge loans” to cover their expenses until they are reimbursed. Representatives from the City of Oakland talked about how they are addressing pre-weatherization issues like lead and asbestos by combining the new, Stimulus-funded Energy Retrofit Loan Program with existing City programs for low-income home rehabilitation. We learned about the emerging models for community-based mobilization, outreach and marketing developed by Community Labor United in Boston and The DC Project in our nation’s capital. We heard from finance experts about emerging tools for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy. Legal experts talked about how we can ensure the jobs we create are good jobs, and are accessible to disadvantaged communities that have been left out of past economic opportunities. Most importantly, people came to gain access to the tools necessary to make their programs deliver a triple bottom line: benefits to the people, the economy and the environment. We all left the convening feeling better prepared to do our work, and committed to work together to share the information and expertise held in the room with the larger Community of Practice.
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