Closing the Funding Gap: An Update on the Income Qualified Efficiency Fund
Earlier this fiscal year, the DCSEU launched a program to invest $2 million in local communities, to use sustainable energy practices to help create economic prosperity. The Income Qualified Efficiency Fund (IQEF) is a resourceful way to fulfill the DCSEU’s low-income performance benchmark, which specifies that 20 percent of the DCSEU’s funding must benefit income-qualified residents, and that these projects must result in approximately 10 percent of the portfolio’s energy savings.
The new program has three strategic parts. First, it alleviates the energy burden on vulnerable communities through energy efficiency in affordable housing, shelters, and clinics. The objective is to support making buildings less expensive to operate, through improved energy performance, so that organizations can allocate the money saved to support mission-related activities. Improved building energy performance contributes to increased comfort for residents, and benefits regional air quality through reduced carbon emissions previously used to power the building. Second, the program motivates local certified business enterprises (CBEs) to develop skills in energy efficiency practice, and thus expand and strengthen what their businesses offer in the marketplace. And third, the program competitively leverages co-funding from property owners and developers.
So, after just a few months, where does the program stand now? To date, the program has collaborated with contractors in issuing 49 work orders for electric and gas efficiency projects. One project, carried out by Greenscape Environmental Services, has already been completed. It is an LED retrofit at the residential medical facility for homeless people, Christ House. Begun in 1985 as the nation’s first such facility, the shelter has had more than 8,300 admissions. The IQEF project is expected to result in more than $110,000 in lifetime energy cost savings.
According to DCSEU Managing Director Ted Trabue, the IQEF not only helps the DCSEU meet its objectives for reducing the energy burden on vulnerable residents and improving the energy efficiency of the District, but also positively affects the local economy by providing CBEs the opportunity to complete the upgrades and gain experience.
After becoming a DCSEU Participating Contractor through the program, Humberto Garces, Principal at Green Construction Services Group, secured his first IQEF project at a small income-qualified property in SE Washington. He discussed his experience with the DCSEU program in an interview with Next City.
“I’ve been working for the government for the last 14 years, but not as a contractor directly, as a sub-contractor,” he said. “This is the first project that I have ever been a contractor directly with the government, which makes me very happy because there wasn’t a lot of paperwork. It was simple for an immigrant and a small business owner like I am.”