In Boston, Hope Springs From The Neighborhoods

Authors: Josh Lynch, Renew Boston

There are 4,514 streets in Boston. Renew Boston aims to weatherize and insulate a home on every one.

Launched in August 2010, the Renew Boston Residential Energy Efficiency Program is an effort that includes the City of Boston, local utilities, NSTAR and National Grid; Next Step Living, a Boston-based weatherization company; the non-profit Mass Energy Consumers Alliance (Mass Energy); and a number of community-based organizations. Renew Boston aims to weatherize homes for residents between 60-120% of area median income living in buildings with 4 or fewer units. These residents can struggle to pay for weatherization work because they do not qualify for the low-income Weatherization Assistance Program, but may not have the discretionary income to take advantage of the rebates offered by the statewide utility-sponsored energy efficiency program, Mass Save. Using Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Renew Boston provides the final 25% of the customer cost-share to complement a 75% utility rebate provided by Mass Save. In total, qualifying City residents can receive a no-cost home energy assessment and up to $3500 in energy upgrades to insulate and weatherize their home.

With less than three weeks until the December 31st deadline to sign up for Renew Boston under the current offer, outreach efforts have switched into high gear. 45 community organizations and businesses have signed on as referral partners to get the word out. Neighborhood Networks Coordinators and volunteers have been attending events, hosting workshops, and giving presentations about Renew Boston almost every day for months. And people are calling the (617) 635-SAVE number constantly in response to a flyer they saw, a bill stuffer they opened, an article they read, or a website they visited.

Between August 2010 and November 2011 Renew Boston outreach has generated over 5200 home energy assessments and 885 weatherizations. Over 100 living wage jobs have been created and thousands of tons of carbon pollution will be eliminated. Our community-driven marketing approach is working and residents are seeing and sharing the benefits.

In the new year incentives will change, but the efforts will continue. The community networks built over the past 14 months will continue to strengthen and Boston will move closer to its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020. With the Durban climate talks failing to set limits on global warming pollution and the US House pushing new legislation to fast track a massive new oil pipeline, people are searching for hope. In Boston, hope springs from our community-driven efforts in partnership with the City of Boston to renew this town house by house, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood.

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