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March 08, 2011

Three Cheers for Orange County

This article originally appeared in ICLEI USA's Local Action blog.

Congratulations to Orange County, Florida, which will receive EPA's Excellence in Energy Star Promotion Award at an April 11, 2011 ceremony in Washington D.C. The County won the award for reducing energy consumption thanks to the Orange County Homeowner Energy Efficiency Program (OCHEEP!), launched in February 2010.

The program provides residents with incentives to make their homes more energy efficient, since residential buildings are responsible for more than 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Homeowners received up to $1,000 in rebates from OCHEEP! for the energy-efficient renovations — making the upgrades practically free while reducing monthly electricity bills and lowering GHG emissions.

What makes OCHEEP! unique is its social networking aspect. Homeowners form groups of 10 or more to join the program and receive group efficiency trainings as they work through the program steps.

The Accomplishments
  • 39 educational workshops have been conducted
  • 605 rebate applications have been distributed
  • 250 people have taken the ENERGY STAR pledge to eliminate over 5 million pounds of GHG emissions in Orange County
  • Participating homeowners saved more than $200 per month in electricity bills
  • Work was created for contractors that stimulated the local economy
  • Air pollution in the region was reduced, as a result of less energy needing to be produced at power plants. Energy efficiency decreases the burden on the electricity infrastructure and improves home comfort.

 

How the Program Works

  • OCHEEP! is funded by federal stimulus funds
  • Homeowners must form a group of at least 10 participants and register for the program at OCHEEP!'s official website.
  • Each group is required to attend free educational workshops that discuss energy efficient methods.
  • Group members sign a "Orange County Energy Star Pledge" in which they promise to lower a specific amount of energy consumption in their homes.
  • Each group must hire a certified energy rater to inspect their homes.
  • Each member must hire a licensed contractor to install energy efficient upgrades in their homes.
  • After the upgrades are complete, each member submits a rebate request form up to $1,000 that provides funds for the energy rater, contractor, and upgrade fees.

[Source: Orange County, Florida website]

-- Natasha Umer, ICLEI USA

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