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Technology Corridor

It's not just for enviros any more.
Fortnightly Magazine - April 1 2003

energy code. While existing homes can qualify for EnergyStar, retrofitting is much more expensive than building with an initial design that is energy efficient.

Progress' Duncan compares an EnergyStar home rating to a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. In a competitive housing market, he says, the rating is something builders can use to differentiate their offerings. While consumers often don't know to demand an EnergyStar rating, Duncan thinks there will be increasing demand for such homes as energy costs climb. In addition to the discounted electricity rate, Duncan emphasizes that a 1 percent additional building cost on a $200,000 home will be more than repaid within two years, between the discount and the decrease in the home's energy use. And, he says, if a customer stays in the home for 20 years, she will over time save the equivalent of one year of power bills.

The major costs of Progress' program are the training it offers to builders throughout its service territory, plus the bill inserts for the company's 900,000 or so customers.

The payback for Progress is something that Duncan doesn't like to put into dollars and cents. "If you can tell me how much a pound of customer satisfaction sells for on the open market, and how I can weigh that," then he says he could come up with a figure. Instead, he points to the positive feelings that customers who participate in the green building program have toward the utility, and that customers also feel like they are doing something to help the environment. In the end, Duncan says Progress views money spent on its green building program to be an investment, rather than an expense.

Whatever the reason for utility participation in green building, it's a trend that utilities are certainly not ignoring.

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