The future of energy efficiency isn't estimated—it's measured. Sealed RFI response to the US Secretary of Energy

Sealed’s response to the Department of Energy’s Request for Information for the Inflation Reduction Act home electrification rebates

Andy Frank
Andy Frank Founder and President, Sealed

Sealed’s response to the Department of Energy’s Request for Information for the Inflation Reduction Act home electrification rebates

March 3, 2023

The Honorable Jennifer Granholm
Secretary of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20585

RE: DE-FOA-0002981

Dear Secretary Granholm:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the Request for Information (RFI) in DE-FOA-0002981, “Inflation Reduction Act Home Efficiency & Electrification Rebate Programs.”

We are providing comments on behalf of Sealed. Sealed is a climate tech startup on a mission to stop home energy waste and electrify all homes. Sealed designs, manages, and finances home weatherization and electrification improvements, and is only paid by our customers based on actual, measured savings. Sealed currently operates in 8 states plus the District of Columbia, including New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Virginia. 

Sealed is excited about the Inflation Reduction Act Home Efficiency & Electrification Rebate Programs (“Programs”), including the Home Energy Performance-Based, Whole-House Rebates Program (“HOMES Program”). Based on Sealed’s over 10 years of experience with measured savings, Sealed believes the HOMES Program has the potential to transform the energy efficiency market—turning every home that participates in the HOMES program into a Virtual Power Plant (“VPP”).

Our detailed RFI comments are included below. Sealed comments are supported by the following organizations:  Arcadia, Elephant Energy, Energy Pool, Fifth Wall, HomeWorks Energy, Mission:data Coalition, MUUS Climate Partners, Pearl Certification, PosiGen, Recurve, Resilient Edge, Sunrun, and Tetra. 

Thank you again for the opportunity to provide these comments, and we look forward to working with you on successful implementation of this important program.


Andy Frank
Founder and President
Sealed Inc.

RFI Comments

A. Respondent Contact Information

1. Please provide your contact information, including your name, organization, type of organization (state government, non-profit/community organization, individual, etc.), phone number, and email address. 

Name: Andy Frank
Organization: Sealed Inc. (“Sealed”)
Organization Type: Aggregator
Physical Address: 22 w. 38th Street, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10018

B. Accessible and Equitable Program Design 

2. What best practices can program administrators and other relevant stakeholders (e.g., retailers, contractors, or community-based organizations) use to ensure that disadvantaged communities and low-income households are aware of and have easy access to the Home Energy Rebate programs? 

Sealed believes that disadvantaged communities (“DACs”) and Low to Moderate Income (“LMI”) households will best be served by program designs that empower aggregators to minimize soft costs and incentivize aggregators to invest in education and outreach to these communities. See here for more information.

3. How can DOE encourage program administrators to design their rebate programs to align with the Justice40 Initiative, which commits to delivering forty percent of the overall benefits (home improvements, jobs, etc.) from certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution? 

Sealed believes that DOE must empower states to minimize the soft costs associated with income verification. Since the Programs offer higher incentive levels for DACs, aggregators and trade allies will be incentivized to serve DACs, but may be deterred if the income verification burden is too high. Sealed supports FEPC in their comments on this subject. 

4. How can DOE and program administrators ensure that community-based organizations, residents of disadvantaged communities, renters, and marginalized groups such as low income residents, residents of color, rural residents, and Tribal residents are meaningfully engaged for the Home Energy Rebate programs? What other groups should be included? 

Sealed believes that DOE and program administrators can ensure all community stakeholders are meaningfully engaged by program designs that gives aggregators flexibility to leverage incentive dollars in many ways, including supporting local community stakeholders. See here for more information.

5. How can the Home Energy Rebate programs help to minimize energy burden and costs, particularly in low- and moderate-income (LMI) and high energy burden households? 

Sealed believes that the Programs can minimize energy burden and costs for all households, including LMI and high energy burden households, by prioritizing the measured pathway of the HOMES program. 

Many studies have demonstrated that deemed and modeled approaches to energy savings do not realize the estimated energy bill savings, particularly for LMI households. The measured pathway, on the other hand, is much more likely to significantly reduce energy burdens given the accountability for work quality and accurate savings predictions taken on by aggregators. 

6. What types of program design approaches, guidelines, tools, savings analyses, policies or reviews can help discourage contractors from using rebates for upgrades that will likely result in higher annual household energy bills, particularly for low-income households? 

Sealed believes the measured pathway of the HOMES program is the best program design to minimize the chance that upgrades will increase annual household bills. The measured pathway creates market accountability for incentivizing projects that maximize total energy reductions and therefore lower energy bills.

7. What types of policies or requirements can be used to ensure that owners of rental properties receiving rebates targeted for low-income households continue to offer affordable rents for a reasonable time after improvements are made? How might DOE also incentivize multifamily affordable housing property owners to participate in these programs? 

DOE should minimize any additional requirements for rental properties. Local laws and regulations are most appropriate for guidelines related to rent increases—any additional requirements will increase soft costs, making the Programs less accessible for the people that need them most. 

8. Given that rebate allocations are intended to be applied to residential properties within that state, tribe, or territory’s jurisdiction, how can program administrators ensure proper rebate processing in instances when the equipment/service provider and the household are in two different jurisdictions? 

For the HOMES Program, program administrators should require recipients of incentives (both consumers and contractors) to attest to the state or jurisdiction of household residence. DOE and program administrators can choose to audit these attestations, with any contractors that provide false attestations disqualified from any further Program participation.

9. What are best practices for implementing successful ‘point of sale’ rebates, including when considering contractor needs? 

Sealed believes it is important for DOE to make all “point of sale” incentives, including the HOMES program measured pathway, as simple as possible to ensure greater participation. Keeping project requirements simple and clear will benefit all households, particularly DAC and LMI households. In many cases, this may mean leveraging an existing program structure such as Mass Saves.

Measured savings relies on incentives paid by program implementers to aggregators that take on the performance risk of energy efficiency projects. Accountability and innovation are built into the approach, which enables program implementers to reduce the amount of information and paperwork required for each project. That, ultimately, is the key to reaching more households through the HOMES program.

To make sure that as many households as possible can take advantage of energy efficiency upgrades, we believe measured savings projects should only be required to provide program administrators with:

  • Project location and customer identifier
  • Project scope listing the measures installed
  • Pre- and post-project installation photos
  • A minimum of 12 months’ worth of pre-project utility data
  • Projected energy savings
  • Determination of income and/or DAC eligibility

Such information is already routinely collected by contractors. Minimizing program data requirements will provide important flexibility to aggregators, enabling innovation in the market for energy efficiency.

11. What quality control measures are needed to ensure that contractors practice safe and healthy homes best practices, and that projected savings are achieved? 

Sealed believes the measured pathway of the HOMES program will incentivize aggregators to implement best practice quality control measures that include safe and healthy homes that achieve projected savings. See here for more details on how aggregators can ensure quality control.

The incentive programs will not be easy for most contractors to implement. To ensure program effectiveness and longevity after incentive funds are expended, it is important for DOE to recommend guidelines that will ensure robust participation of contractors. The guidelines should recommend that state programs: 

  • Require contractor qualifications (to ensure quality), that focus on internal contractor processes, rather than job-level QAQC, which is very expensive for both states and contractors; 
  • Enable “whole house” approaches by allowing allowing “staged” upgrades, through which the savings are achieved by multiple contractors working in combination;

12. Which Home Energy Rebate program components across Sections 50121 and 50122 should be implemented separately or together? Some examples could include: (i) Marketing, communications, branding (ii) Income verification (iii) Rebate processing (iv) Contractor requirements (v) Home energy assessments (vi) Data collection and reporting 

Sealed believes that as many program elements as possible should be implemented together. Income verification, in particular, will create additional unnecessary soft costs if managed separately across programs. 

In addition, Sealed believes that program branding and communications should be implemented together (for each state). Marketing, however, should be executed primarily by market actors (aggregators, etc.) in order to minimize program administrative costs and ensure that consumers have concrete and specific “next steps” when responding to direct marketing messages. 

C. Additional Design Considerations Specific to Indian Tribes 

D. Designing Programs for Maximum Impact 

17. What evaluations of similar programs exist that can provide lessons learned and recommendations for effective program guidance, support, and best practices? 

Sealed refers to Franklin Energy and Recurve comments that reference various evaluations that provide lessons learned and recommendations for the measured savings pathway and Advanced Measurement & Verification (AM&V).

18. How should DOE, states, tribes, and territories measure success? Examples may include high customer satisfaction, measured or estimated benefits (e.g., impacts on energy, bills, emissions, health, or peak demand), quality job creation, valuation of home upgrades or overall efficiency, etc. What specific data is needed to evaluate progress toward these recommended metrics of success? 

DOE, states, tribes, and territories should minimize data requirements from aggregators, contractors, and consumers to reduce program soft costs as much as possible. Ultimately, success should be measured based on measurement of  energy (overall and peak) and carbon emission reductions. Other best practice success metrics can include Net Promoter Score (“NPS”), co-investment from state, utility, and the private sector, and percentage of funds that go to LMI and DAC households.  

19. What data should program administrators and DOE collect throughout the program for the purposes of evaluation? What evaluation protocols should program administrators and DOE put into place before program implementation begins? a. How often should program administrators be required to evaluate program performance? How often should DOE evaluate the program? b. What specific data is needed to evaluate program success in reaching disadvantaged communities?

See question 9 above for Sealed recommendations for the data collected by aggregators as part of the HOMES program measured pathway. See here for details on Sealed recommendations of evaluation protocols for the measured pathway.

20. How should these programs be designed to spur durable market demand for efficient and electrified homes? How can program designs best assure continued funding and financing for home efficiency and electrification improvements even after these funds have been depleted? 

Sealed believes that the HOMES program measured pathway is the program design that will provide the most durable market demand for efficient and electrified homes. 

For example, Sealed has raised tens of millions of dollars in private capital to invest in efficient and electrified homes in states and territories that cover ~35% of US households. We know that there is significant private capital demand for investments in efficient and electrified homes, particularly when it comes to measured savings. See here for more information on how the HOMES program’s measured pathway can transform the market even after Program funds are depleted. 

The home certification provision is a key component of the legislation that will help ensure that self-sustaining market demand for electrification and high-performing homes continues long after the incentive funds are expended. To ensure that the full potential of this provision is realized, DOE guidelines should recommend states adopt approaches to home certification that will maximize their market impact, including the following:

  • Provide information about the home’s specific energy efficient and high-performing features in a form that is accessible and engaging to homeowners and home buyers;
  • Communicate the benefits of these features in accessible and engaging language;
  • Include an asset-based miles-per-gallon metric generated with software based on NREL’s residential energy modeling tools, with the Home Energy Score being a best-in-class rating, but other, lower-data options being acceptable;
  • Demonstrates real acceptance from and value for the real estate sector, as evidenced by use of the certification in real estate transactions. 

21. Based on past successes, what practices and/or policies should program administrators use to drive higher energy savings per rebate dollar invested (e.g., measure bundling, order of installation, home characteristics, or sizing equipment after insulation/sealing)? 

DOE should incentivize the market to maximize energy savings per dollar by enabling states to prioritize the measured savings pathway of the HOMES program, and encouraging incentive flexibility. 

The measured savings pathway provides aggregators with strong incentives to leverage existing (or create new) best practices that drive higher energy savings per dollar invested. 

Flexible market incentives allow aggregators to unlock innovative ways to utilize incentive dollars. Not every consumer requires the same incentive in order to implement energy efficiency upgrades, and a top-down approach will limit market adoption and innovation. The measured savings approach only succeeds if we meet consumers where they are.

Flexible, “mid-stream incentives” instead give aggregators the chance to tailor incentives for consumers’ needs and desires through different approaches: 

  • Upfront rebates: Money to offset the cost of energy efficiency projects
  • Lowering project prices: Lowest possible sticker prices for projects
  • Lowering the cost of financing: Lowering the charges to finance projects
  • Additional products and services: Pairing extras like smart thermostats with energy efficiency upgrades

Allowing aggregators to tailor incentives accomplishes key objectives toward ensuring the success of the HOMES program:

  • Motivates aggregators to grow sales.
  • Meets the policy goal of transforming the market for home weatherization and electrification.
  • Ensures that taxpayer money drives market transformation.

25. How can programs ensure effective consumer education and outreach? What types of tools and/or materials should DOE develop to support consumers in understanding how to maximize the benefits of these programs? 

Sealed believes it is important for DOE to empower aggregators and other trade allies to do the vast majority of education and outreach to households. Energy efficiency has historically been a top-down effort, where regulators or administrators try to entice consumers to adopt home energy upgrades. This approach is rigid and complex, and often results in the large program administrative costs instead of incentives.

DOE should empower aggregators to reach the market in different ways, including through local community organizations and other trusted messengers. The measured savings approach, in particular, enables aggregators to approach the energy efficiency market in creative ways. And by employing a broad definition of aggregators, various aggregator types (financiers, retailers, solar companies, etc.) are able to participate in bringing energy efficiency upgrades to consumers. See comments from Bright Power, Daikin, Elephant Energy, Home Depot, Pearl Certification, and PosiGen for examples of companies that have the ability to reach consumers as aggregators if empowered by program administrators.

26. What program design requirements are necessary to support increased investment in new business models, with the long-term goal of sustained financial and market investment and accelerated market adoption? 

Sealed believes that the HOMES program’s measured pathway provides the best program design to increase investment in new business models. See here for examples of new business models that can be created, including:

  • “Installer aggregators” could be local contractors that do their own sales and marketing, leveraging measured savings incentives to provide special rebates to consumers while partnering with financing and distribution partners.
  • “Marketing aggregators” could focus primarily on lead generation, leveraging measured savings incentives to reach more homes than they otherwise would be able to.
  • A “Distributor Aggregator” could provide installer partners with lower cost equipment and financing solutions subsidized by measured savings incentives, lowering project prices across the board. 
  • A “Sales Aggregator” like a solar company with existing sales, marketing, and financing capabilities could partner with HVAC contractors to improve the economics of projects that combine heat pumps and solar.

E. Integrating Existing Incentives & Programs 

28. How can DOE encourage program administrators to build on and coordinate these funds with existing networks and programs to maximize impact? Other programs may include state energy efficiency Revolving Loan Funds (RLF), utility energy efficiency programs, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), tax incentives, among other funding sources. 

a. What guidance is needed from DOE to make this successful? 

b. How should DOE encourage program implementers to design and implement rebate programs to leverage other resources and/or provide seamless services (e.g., through housing finance agencies (HFAs), state RLFs, WAP, or other complementary programs)? 

c. What concerns and risks should DOE be aware of in introducing these programs into existing programs and networks? How can program administrators prevent the layering of federal, state, and local incentives whose combined value is greater than that of the product being purchased? 

Sealed believes it is important for DOE to ensure that IRA Program incentives are stackable (and coordinated with) with other state, local, and utility incentives. Consumer-facing incentives allow aggregators and contractors to grow the market for home weatherization and electrification. For the HOMES program’s measured savings pathway, Sealed recommends making aggregators responsible and accountable for demonstrating that total incentive funds do not exceed the statutory limits for total incentive funds per project (50% for market rate, 80% for LMI). 

29. What are potential barriers to effective program energy savings attribution? Are there best practices to address these barriers? 

Sealed believes that DOE and program administrators should prioritize measurement of gross energy savings impacts, not attribution. Focusing on attribution is likely to dramatically increase program soft costs without improving outcomes. 

31. What safeguards can program administrators put in place to ensure local utility rebates and other local funding that existed before the Home Energy Rebates are not decreased in response to the availability of the Home Energy Rebates? 

Sealed believes that ensuring local funding does not decrease in response to federal funding should be an important DOE goal. State funding applications should be required to describe existing state and local investment plans, and attest that they have no intention to reduce those investments while receiving federal Program funds. DOE should also reserve the right to modify state funds if states reduce state and local funding below the amount defined in their funding application.

F. Opt-In Tools, Resources, Technical Assistance, and Partnerships 

32. DOE may invest in tools and resources that states, territories, and Indian Tribes can elect to use to implement their programs. Program components could include (i) systems to track or process rebates, transactions, and improvements; (ii) systems to verify income eligibility; (iii) software to model and optimize savings; (iv) systems and/or forms for data collection; (v) model program templates program administrators can adopt in their application; (vi) stakeholder engagement guidance and resources; (vii) standardized datasets and APIs, and (viii) program marketing, education and branding. 

a. Which of these should be prioritized? 

b. Are any of these not needed? 

c. Are other components needed? 

Sealed believes that DOE should prioritize investments in tools that enable program administrators to implement the measured savings pathway of the HOMES program. The measured savings pathway has the most potential for market transformation, but is also the most novel program design and program administrators will benefit from DOE support. 

Specifically, Sealed recommends that DOE provide program administrators with the following templates and tools:

  • Open-source Advanced Measurement and Verification (“AM&V”) software such as OpenEEmeter
  • Template RFP language for measured savings program implementation
  • Template contract language between program administrators and aggregators

33. What existing systems and tools can DOE, states, territories, Indian Tribes, program administrators, aggregators, and/or financiers leverage to implement the Home Energy Rebate programs? 

DOE and program administrators can leverage OpenEEmeter for the HOMES program’s measured savings pathway.

34. Are there any program components that DOE should provide nationally to avoid duplication of effort and/or encourage consistency? 

DOE should be careful to proscribe program components nationally, as state flexibility will be a key element of overall Program success. However, Sealed believes standardizing the following HOMES program measured pathway program components are likely to provide benefits to all stakeholders, including state program administrators:

  • Income qualification
  • Minimum project data requirements (see question 9 for details)
  • Accuracy metrics and guidelines such as Normalized Mean Bias Error and Fractional Savings Uncertainty

35. What types of support or technical assistance would be most useful for DOE to provide to states, territories, Indian Tribes, and other program administrators to assist in developing program applications as well as in implementation? 

See question 32.

36. What qualities should DOE seek in selecting intermediary organizations (e.g., non-profit and community-based organizations) to provide technical assistance, including marketing, education, and outreach to program implementors and others? Examples of support could include help on designing effective programs, braiding funding resources, and ensuring marginalized groups benefit from the rebate programs. 

Sealed believes that DOE should not select intermediary organizations, but instead leverage program administrators and aggregators to provide marketing, education, and outreach. See question 25 for more details on how aggregators, in particular, can effectively reach consumers.

G. Income Verification 

H. Estimating and Measuring Energy Savings 

40. For the Home Efficiency Rebates, how should DOE support program implementers in selecting, developing and implementing the modeled and/or measured energy efficiency path? What factors will drive decisions to implement a modeled program, a measured program or both programs? 

Sealed believes it is important for DOE to provide guidelines that support the program implementation of the measured savings pathway. Measured savings can deliver $1K-$6K more incentives per project, 4 terawatt hours of incremental energy reductions and an additional 3.3M metric tons of carbon emissions avoided than traditional deemed or modeled programs by ensuring that energy savings are real, not estimated or predicted. 

Measured savings is the electric vehicle of energy efficiency programs. It requires new thinking and some new infrastructure, but ultimately is simple, flexible, and dramatically more effective and efficient at reducing energy use and greenhouse gasses (“GHGs”) compared to traditional energy efficiency programs that operate more like internal combustion engines with lots of complicated, moving parts and significant ongoing maintenance and friction.

The measured savings approach includes the following key elements:

  • Performance Payments to Aggregators: Incentives are paid by program implementers to “aggregators” that operate as Virtual Power Plant (“VPP”) developers, taking on project performance risk based on actual energy and GHG reductions and/or peak demand management to transform the market. 
  • Upfront Payments to Consumers & Contractors: While aggregators are paid over a year or more based on actual performance of a portfolio of projects, homeowners and renters that complete projects  (and the contractors that install them) receive upfront incentives paid by the aggregator, ensuring a “point of sale” discount or other value proposition (lower financing costs, additional measures, etc.).
  • Accountability to Consumers and Taxpayers: Since aggregators are only paid based on actual project performance, they are incentivized to ensure high levels of work quality—if projects do not perform, aggregators are on the hook (not taxpayers).

In order to ensure the successful implementation of the measured savings approach by State Energy Offices (“SEOs”), DOE should provide the following guidelines to SEOs:

  • Prioritize the measured path: DOE should prioritize the development of guidelines and tools that allow states to make the investments necessary to stand up the measured path as quickly as possible. Measured savings programs can launch within 4 months of funding approval and cut down contractor soft costs by 3 hours per project, dramatically reducing overall program soft costs.
  • Enable data aggregator flexibility: Data is the lifeblood of the measured path. In order to ensure consumer accessibility, DOE should draft SEO guidelines that provide aggregators with the flexibility to provide program implementers with energy data from a wide variety of sources, including utilities (e.g. EDI), third-party data providers (e.g. Arcadia, UtilityAPI), customer utility bills and delivery records, and/or in-home sensors, whole-home load monitors (e.g., Sense or SPAN), or device-level metering.
  • Build a competitive market: The legislative intent of the measured path is to create an accountable, market-based approach to investments in energy efficiency. In order to do that, DOE should provide clear guidelines that separate administrative and incentive funds so that no single entity (aggregators, program admins/implementers, etc.) can receive both administrative and incentive funds from the HOMES program in each state. 
  • Keep the measured path simple: This will only be possible if SEOs are able to have the flexibility to collect the minimum required data from each project. DOE should therefore include these minimum project data requirements, but ensure they are truly minimal.

41. What have evaluations found to be key drivers of success in accurately modeling or predicting energy savings? 

Evaluations have consistently found that deemed or modeled savings estimates do not accurately predict energy savings. This is due to three primary factors:

  • Energy models struggle to capture many complex factors that determine energy savings, including household behavior
  • Inputs to energy models can often be subjective such as the R-value of existing insulation levels
  • Contractors are often incentivized to maximize incentive levels and therefore “game” even the most accurate models

The best practice to drive success in accurately predicting energy savings is using Advanced Measurement and Verification (“AM&V”) in the context of measured savings incentives. AM&V has demonstrated to be extremely accurate, especially as project portfolio size increases. 

For example, by using AM&V strategies, Sealed’s models have demonstrated close to 0% baseline portfolio error (i.e. Normalized Mean Bias Error (“NMBE”) for all energy sources, including delivered fuels. See here for more information. 

42. What recommended methodologies or standards could be used by states/programs to calculate energy savings and associated impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions reductions? What software is used to implement that methodology? What are the key inputs and features? 

Sealed believes that open source methodologies such as CalTRACK and open source software such as OpenEEmeter can be used by program administrators to calculate energy savings and associated impacts, including peak energy reductions and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. 

In addition, Sealed believes that DOE should provide program administrators with standard accuracy metrics and minimum required thresholds to determine methodology and software qualification, including:

  • Normalized Mean Bias Error (“NMBE”) that calculates the difference between predicted and actual energy usage for a population of homes that have not installed an energy savings project
  • Fractional Savings Uncertainty (“FSU”) that calculates the confidence interval of energy savings in a population of projects.

The minimum thresholds should be drawn from peer-reviewed industry stakeholder proceedings, such as the 2019 LBNL Advanced M&B Working Group, which recommended thresholds for R-squared, NMBE, and CV(RMSE). 

Open source methodologies and software will also enable homes that participate in the HOMES program to become part of large Virtual Power Plant (“VPP”) networks, with price signals being sent to aggregators based on peak energy consumption times for each state / territory. 

Sealed believes that utilities and other VPP stakeholders should be encouraged to partner with program administrators to expand and extend these VPP networks catalyzed by the HOMES program’s measured savings pathway, including accelerating existing state level VPP peak reduction programs such as Massachusetts’s “ConnectedSolutions” program.

43. What software tools provide any of the following capabilities? (i) Energy usage calibration consistent with BPI 2400 (ii) Open-source advanced measurement and verification (iii) Savings valuation based on time, location, or greenhouse gas emissions (iv) Third-party certified documentation of the work scope and predicted impacts (v) Other capabilities of interest, including but not limited to use of standard data schemas (e.g., HPXML), application programming interfaces (API) integrability, etc. 

Open source software such as OpenEEmeter can provide open source AM&V and can also provide savings valuation based on time, location, and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Sealed believes that all third party software should be compatible with HPXML and also provide aggregators with APIs that have input/output functionality (i.e. other software tools can send data and receive outputs without having to use a specific user interface). 

Sealed also refers DOE to Pearl Certification comments for an example of what a robust home certification software tool looks like.

44. Do you have any recommendations for applying BPI 2400 per the legal requirements of the Home Efficiency Rebates? 

Sealed believes that the legislative intent of the HOMES program is to apply BPI 2400 as of August 16, 2022, the date President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act. Specifically, the legislative intent included an acknowledgement that, while all energy models have challenges, energy models that are calibrated using household energy usage data are more likely to be accurate. 

Sealed also believes that there can be limited exceptions to BPI 2400 requirements for projects that are not capable of meeting BPI 2400 requirements. Sealed believes that contractors and aggregators should be allowed to provide modeled savings for projects that can demonstrate “Qualified Exceptions.”

Specifically, Sealed believes that the following Qualified Exceptions should be included in DOE guidelines:

  • Customer moved into home <12 months before the project is completed
  • Customer heats primarily with a delivered fuel and has <3 fuel delivery records per year
  • Customer heats primarily with a delivered fuel from a company(s) that does not keep delivery records

In order to demonstrate that one or more of these Qualified Exceptions are applicable, a project should be required to:

  • Provide a signed customer attestation identifying one or more Qualified Exceptions.
  • Provide a signed contractor or Aggregator attestation identifying one or more Qualified Exceptions, with an acknowledgement that the Program Administrator may penalize the contractor or Aggregator if one more more of the claimed Qualified Exceptions are found to be invalid.
  • For the move-in Qualified Exception, provide a utility record that demonstrates a “start of service” date. 

45. The Home Efficiency Rebates refer to savings based on “time, location, or greenhouse gas emissions.” Please provide input on best practices for calculating savings based on these factors. How should program administrators value these savings in comparison to homeowner energy usage and bill reductions?

Sealed supports Recurve comments on best practices for calculating savings based on “time, location, or greenhouse gas emissions.” In addition, we would offer that many such programs already exist and should be leveraged – for example, five of the six New England states have “Active Demand Reduction” programs that track wholesale market peaks and pay retail customers for measured peak reduction. These peaks drive system costs and GHG and particulate emissions. Such programs have a proven, multi-year record of performance. For example, Green Mountain Power’s “Bring Your Own Device Program” regularly saves ratepayers millions of dollars per year in avoided peak costs. 

I. Eligible Technologies for Rebates 

46. How should DOE facilitate that clear information regarding qualifying technologies and projects is readily available to consumers, contractors, retailers, and other relevant stakeholders? 

Sealed believes that DOE should provide a website with simple, clear language and FAQs on qualifying technologies and projects that can be accessed by all stakeholders. The website should also include a “help desk” email that stakeholders can use to ask additional questions. 

48. Should rebates be allowed in instances where use of the rebate-eligible equipment or measure is already required by local code? 

Sealed believes that local code should not impact incentive eligibility, especially for replacement of existing equipment in homes that are not likely to be replaced without incentives. 

J. Data Access and Sharing 

49. What should DOE consider when drafting energy usage data sharing guidelines? 

Sealed believes it is important for DOE to ensure that energy usage data is easily accessible for implementation of the measured savings pathway. 

Aggregators responsible for implementing measured savings incentives must be allowed to access energy data wherever they can find it. 

DOE must enable multiple pathways for gathering energy data across all households. Sealed, for example, captures household energy data in numerous ways, including:

  • Utility Companies: Electronic Data Interchange (“EDI”) that includes monthly energy usage data and is provided by utilities in certain states. 
  • Third Party Data Providers: Utility data management tools provided by companies like Arcadia and UtilityAPI.
  • Energy Bills: Energy bill records, including fuel delivery records, are provided by customers. 
  • Wireless Sensors & Other In-Home Devices: Wireless sensors that leverage Low Power Wide Area Networks (“LoRaWAN”) to transmit energy data from homes, non-utility devices which can meter whole home load such as SPAN or Sense, and device-level energy consumption data from internet-connected devices such as smart thermostats, EV chargers, connected water heaters, heat pumps and other distributed energy resources. 

DOE should provide a Good, Better, Best framework for program administrators to leverage when it comes to energy data access. 

For example, “Best” states like California that have access to utility internal data and both participant and non-participant data, programs will be able to more granularly calculate time of use and greenhouse gas emissions reductions while minimizing aggregator energy savings risk.  

In other “Good” states that have no interval data or access to utility non-participant data sets, aggregators should be allowed to leverage an “All of the Above” approach to energy data as long as it is measured and auditable. 

50. What are best practices for minimizing the complications of data collection, allowing data sharing where needed, and ensuring data security? Is there an opportunity to build upon Green Button and Green Button Connect? 

Sealed believes that DOE should empower aggregators to be allowed to collect energy data wherever possible and practical. This may include Green Button and Green Button Connect, although to date this has not proved successful, and so should not be relied upon as the only strategy for aggregators to access energy data. 

K. Compliance and Quality Assurance 

51. How can program administrators track participation in rebate programs to protect against: 

(i) Double-dipping between various federally funded state and Tribal grant programs for the same upgrade 

(ii) Households receiving more funds than are allowable under the law 

(iii) Contractors/installers purchasing equipment in a way that violates the prohibition of combining efficiency and electrification rebates 

(iv) Claims for work not done 

(v) Improper installations 

(vi) Ineligible products 

(vii) Falsifying income eligibility 

(viii) Other risks – please identify other risks 

Sealed believes that program administrators can best ensure compliance in the HOMES program’s measured savings pathway by making aggregators, not contractors or consumers, responsible for all compliance activities. Aggregators that are found to not be in compliance on any aspect of a project(s) will be at risk of losing incentive dollars for that project(s). 

52.What types of quality assurance and/or quality control should DOE and program administrators require? What are recommendations for best practices? 

Sealed believes that program administrators can best ensure quality assurance and quality control in the HOMES program’s measured savings pathway by requiring aggregators to provide pictures of improvements (before and after installation) for all projects and measures. 

53. What data should DOE and program administrators collect to ensure their ability to conduct effective quality assurance and/or quality control?

See question 9 for the data that Sealed believes DOE and program administrators should collect for the HOMES program’s measured savings pathway to ensure effective quality assurance and quality control. 

L. Job Creation & Quality 

54. Which contractor and/or laborer credentials and/or certifications should DOE and/or program administrators require for work funded in part by these rebates? 

Sealed believes that DOE and program administrators should require that aggregators OR contractors have the following certifications:

  • Weatherization: At least one person on staff that is a certified Building Performance Institute Building Analyst or Energy Auditor 
  • HVAC: Applicable local license for heating and cooling equipment installations and, for cold climates, a certificate that demonstrates cold climate heat pump training such as the Building Performance Institute Cold Climate Air Source Heat Pump Design certificate of knowledge or IGSHPA certification for Ground Source Heat Pumps 
  • Electrical: Applicable local license for installation of electrical equipment

55. What practices are needed to ensure quality installations? Please provide examples of how existing efficiency or electrification programs track quality installations by contractor. 

Sealed believes that the HOMES program’s measured savings pathway provides the best program design to create market incentives for quality installation. For example, Sealed finances home weatherization and electrification projects based on measured savings. In order to ensure quality installations, Sealed employs the following strategies to ensure quality installations that save energy:

  • Upfront vetting of contractor certification and adherence to scoping and installation best practices 
  • Review of measure pictures (before and after installation) to ensure project level quality control
  • Measured savings analysis by contractor to quantify the aggregate quality level of each contractor

56. How can DOE assure that these rebates support quality construction jobs and quality non-construction jobs? 

Sealed believes that DOE can best assure quality construction and non-construction jobs by supporting the HOMES program’s measured savings pathway. Contractors and other market stakeholders are often under pressure to cut costs by hiring lower wage, lower skilled workers. The measured savings pathway provides a market incentive to do the opposite and ensure that workers are paid a fair wage for quality work. 

M. Buy America and Supply Chain Considerations 

N. Open Response 

59. Is there anything else DOE should be aware of as it develops program design guidance and support for these rebate programs? 

Aggregator Definition

Aggregators are private or nonprofit organizations that assume the risk and responsibility of procuring a clean energy resource in response to a market incentive. The original legislative text of the Build Back Better bill included the following definition:

“The term ‘aggregator’ means a gas utility, electric utility, commercial entity, nonprofit entity, or State or local government entity that may receive rebates provided under a State program under this section for 1 or more portfolios consisting of 1 or more energy efficiency retrofits.”

For the purposes of DOE guidelines, Sealed recommends the following definition to ensure a competitive aggregator marketplace:

“An ‘aggregator’ is any commercial, government, or non-profit entity that receives rebates from the HOMES and/or HEEHRA programs within a given state or territory, but does not receive administrative funds from the HOMES or HEEHRA programs from that same state or territory. States and utilities must provide an open “Request for Qualification” process that enables any qualified entity to register and serve as an aggregator in their state or territory.” 

This definition will ensure a competitive and open market aggregator market develops, where aggregators are responsible for:

  • Marketing to customers and/or contractors 
  • Collecting customer energy data (both before and after energy upgrades) 
  • Predicting energy reductions 
  • Submitting project information to government programs and market administrators

Aggregators will also be responsible for much of the administrative work currently placed on energy efficiency contractors, empowering them to do what they do best: installing great projects. See here for more information on how aggregators will transform the market for energy retrofits. 

Guidelines to Increase Accessibility of HOMES Program Measured Pathway

Sealed believes that DOE should include guidelines that increase accessibility for the HOMES program’s 15% savings threshold for the measured savings pathway. 

Specifically, Sealed recommends that DOE include the following guidelines to program administrators:

  • Total energy usage should be calculated based on the fuel(s) submitted by aggregators for projects without a fuel switch component (e.g. weatherization).
  • Total energy usage should be calculated based on all fuels that represent meaningful energy usage (e.g. not including occasional wood fireplace use) for projects with a fuel switch component (e.g. heat pumps in a home with a natural gas furnace).
  • The 15% energy savings threshold should be calculated for each aggregator (in each state) for portfolios that meet minimum Fractional Savings Uncertainty (“FSU”) thresholds.
  • Program administrators should have the flexibility to define the 15% energy savings threshold in terms of a combination of total energy reductions, peak energy reductions, and greenhouse gas reductions. 

Without these guidelines, many states and territories may struggle to meet the 15% threshold, especially areas with temperate climates that do not offer the same total energy saving potential. 

Guidelines to Encourage Appropriate Braiding of HEEHRA Program and HOMES Program with the Measured Pathway

The IRA (appropriately) disallows double counting of HOMES and HEEHRA funds for the same measure. Braiding incentives is allowed, and encouraged, however, particularly for low and moderate income households that need high levels of incentive support for large weatherization and electrification projects. 

For the measured pathway, DOE’s guidelines can encourage this braiding by recommending that states enable aggregators to do the following:

  • Use HEEHRA rebate funds for measures that save no home energy such as electric panel upgrades and electric vehicle charges.
  • Use HOMES incentive funds for measures that save significant amounts of energy such as insulation, air sealing, and heat pumps. 

For measures that save a small amount of energy (induction stoves, heat pump dryers, etc.), DOE should provide guidelines on a conservative amount of energy savings to “subtract” from  the measured savings calculations from each home that installs these “minimal energy savings measures.”

April 6, 2023