RELATED ARTICLES Is Weatherization Cost-Effective?Weatherization Funding Has Been SlashedWeatherization’s Home-Stretch RecoveryLawmaker Targets DOE’s Weatherization ProgramWeatherization’s Political Fallout DOE Announces Home Efficiency Scoring System and Weatherization GuidelinesDOE Targets Innovation in Its Weatherization Program Stimulus-Funded Weatherization Begins to Find Its FootingIn Some Areas, Weatherization Struggles Out of the GateMinnesota Gears Up for Weatherization Onslaught U.S. House Proposes Huge Increase In Weatherization Spending Recovery Act brought new challengesWhile it has a good track record, WAP faced a practical challenge during a three-year period of additional funding driven by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This law, which as reporter Michael Grunwald has written deserves a tremendous amount of credit for its prescient investments in clean and efficient energy programs, boosted WAP funding sevenfold. Actually, despite it being much-maligned as a wasteful “stimulus bill,” this law and its implementation were pretty serious advances in effective and transparent government.Nonetheless, this increased investment would be a challenge for any program. Oak Ridge’s pragmatic — and peer-reviewed — study design tackles that head-on, actually relying on two sets of analyses, one pre-ARRA and one of the ARRA-era. You can read the summary documents for this huge body of work here (also see here for a description of early-release findings by my colleague Peter Miller).For your convenience, here are some highlights:The retrospective look covered one program year (2008; ARRA was enacted in 2009) while the Recovery Act covered PY 2010. Total homes weatherized in the former — 97,965; in the latter — 340,158. That’s quite a jump!The average cost to weatherize each home also jumped, from $4,695 to $6,812. This includes funding leveraged by DOE’s investment. Pre-ARRA, about 48 percent per household was non-DOE money, whereas it was only about 13 percent during ARRA. This is exactly what policymakers intended. ARRA was meant to pump much-needed investment into these programs at a time when others (e.g., municipalities and states) experienced catastrophic revenue (and therefore budget) drops. Other findingsThe report is frank about the challenges ARRA itself posed to implementers, such as state housing finance agencies and their contractors — challenges which reduced cost-effectiveness. Davis-Bacon Act provisions binding ARRA funding and oversight by the feds drove up administrative and operating costs because it required more paperwork and procedural steps. Also upping the program’s expenses was the need to rapidly increase and train a workforce.There are a lot of other interesting findings in this synthesis of studies, including what appears to be a consistent underinvestment in apartment building upgrades. In 2008, 23 percent of households touched by the program were in that category (five-plus homes per building), and in 2010 it was 20 percent. As I’ve written before, about 35 percent of households live in multifamily structures including apartment buildings, which implies that a larger percentage of WAP interventions should focus on such buildings.This underscores the importance of our national Energy Efficiency for All partnership between NRDC’s Urban Solutions Program and other groups, as well as the work of state housing finance agencies, electric and gas utilities, and public officials to improve our apartment building stock too.Many thanks to Oak Ridge for providing such a fact-filled look back, which by providing ample evidence of effectiveness as well as practical ideas for improvement helps clear the way for many more energy-efficiency investments ahead. The aggregated present value of these investments was $340 million in 2008 and $1.1 billion in 2010. On an individual household level that’s $4,243 in 2008 and $3,190 in 2010. By DOE’s extremely conservative yardstick of “savings-to-investment ratio” or SIR, 2008 hits 1.4 while 2010 hits 0.9. If the ratio for this test is less than one, it means the costs exceed the benefits. However, this SIR test leaves out much more than it includes.In fact, squinting at savings and costs based on energy use alone reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s saying about cynics (often said about economists as well, no surprise) — they know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The Oak Ridge analysts find that household-level health and safety benefits can be quantified at $13,550 in 2008 and $13,167 in 2010, eclipsing direct energy benefits. And I think we consumers — especially those on lower incomes who can ill afford education- and productivity-damaging incidents such as asthma attacks and absences from work — really value health and safety.The same goes for jobs created by WAP (8,500 in 2008 and 28,000 in 2010) and carbon emission reductions as well (2,246,000 metric tons in 2008 and 7,382,000 metric tons in 2010). Also, as DOE notes in a footnote, the SIR assessment includes non-DOE spending that “are often used for higher cost energy measures.”Last but not least, it’s important to pull the lens back and take in the big picture: This short-term injection of public money into the system was meant to keep the economy from plunging into another Great Depression, and its role in doing that should arguably also be kept in mind when accounting for benefits. Economists and narrow tests like SIR all too often fixate on costs to the detriment of a host of benefits that the rest of us in society value highly. Years of hard work collecting and analyzing an enormous set of facts about energy efficiency paid off as the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Lab rolled out a synthesis of 36 studies of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). The synthesis shows that weatherization saved families an average of almost $300 annually in energy costs while reducing carbon pollution by 2.2 million metric tons.WAP was established nearly 40 years ago at a time when we were hyper-aware of energy issues in the wake of the Arab oil embargo (see this nifty video about its history). Since its inception, the program has weatherized more than 7.4 million single-family homes and apartment buildings.Typical weatherization measures include caulking, insulating attics or walls, and repairing ducts — measures which improve the comfort of a home and ease the energy costs that burden low-income families. This important program warrants examination to ensure the program’s effectiveness, although sadly a few months ago a narrower non-peer-reviewed working paper by three economists based on a much smaller data set for one program was highly publicized, in spite of its limitations. Colleagues and I detailed the paper’s limitations here, here and here. [Editor’s note: GBA’s analysis of the flawed paper was titled Is Weatherization Cost-Effective?] Deron Lovaas is the State/Federal Policy & Practice Director for the Urban Solutions Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council. This blog was originally posted at NRDC’s Switchboard.
A day after the police fired in the air to disperse 500 villagers descending on a security camp in Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh to oppose it, the police on Wednesday claimed they held a “positive interaction” with those residing within the camp’s security perimeter.“There is a remarkable change in the approach of the villagers of Potali. Women and children in particular turned up at the security camp and held a positive interaction with troops,” says Sundarraj P., Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range).Carrying bows, arrows and axes, residents of Potali, 56 km from Dantewada and neighbouring villages on Tuesday confronted security personnel head-on to oppose the permanent security camp that was set up there on November 11. As the situation seemed to have spiralled out of control during discussions between villagers and the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police, the police fired blank rounds in the air to disperse the crowd. Mr. Sundarraj claimed villagers were under duress to launch an agitation. “Maoists mobilised villagers to protest against the camp. They didn’t have any other option but to take part. Otherwise, they would be killed,” he says.Strategic locationThe camp is of strategic importance for the forces as it falls in the volatile Aranpur region, which forms a connecting corridor between the Darbha division and South Bastar division for Maoists, explains Mr. Sundarraj.“That’s why Maoists are trying their best to derail our efforts in setting up a camp. It’ll be tough for their Malangir area committee to continue its activities once operations begin here,” he adds.“The area is considered a Maoist bastion,” says Devhans Rathore, Sub-Divisional Officer of Police, Kirandul. “When the situation got tense on Tuesday, we fired eight-ten blank rounds which made villagers run helter-skelter.” | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement Members of the District Reserve Guard interacting with villagers of Potali in Dantewada on November 13, 2019 According to the police, the development of the region is the “main antidote for the Maoist menace”. Therefore, under the Trust-Development-Security model, the police plans to win over locals through credible and transparent policing, speed up road construction and rehabilitate Maoists willing to surrender.However, Joga Poyam, vice-sarpanch of Potali, asserts the protest was independent and Maoists did not force them to take part. “Villagers are scared. They get caught in the crossfire between Maoists and security forces each time and bear the cost. Sometimes, when the police are unable to catch Maoists, they come for us.”Tribal women, who practise the age-old tradition of fetching wood and leaves from forests, do not want to be harassed by troops, he says. “Resentment is simmering in the village. We’ll continue our agitation.”On Wednesday, during discussions between neighbouring panchayats and security forces, villagers demanded they not be harassed or intimidated while going to fields, located as far as 5 km away in the hills, and markets.“They told us they had not set up the camp on our land but government’s, and that they won’t trouble us,” says Mr. Poyam. “They agreed with us and want to part of the development process,” says Mr. Rathore. “We told them we’re there for their own safety. If they don’t do anything anti-social, we won’t trouble them. If they need anything, they can come to us. Our doors are open.”’When will militarisation come to an end?’This being the fourth locals-led protest in a month against security camps in the Bastar region, Bela Bhatia, lawyer and social activist, believes that at the bottom of all of it lies the question: when will militarisation of the region come to an end?“Aranpur station area is already notorious for numerous fake encounters,” claims Ms. Bhatia. “Now they are moving even closer to locals, and they don’t want the camp there because they have been at the receiving end of fake encounters, sexual assault and arbitrary arrests for years.”Often, those living close to camps were arbitrarily stopped and questioned while going to fields and markets, she alleges.Ms. Bhatia believes the District Reserve Guard (DRG), composed mainly of surrendered Maoists, is now at the forefront of the anti-Maoist strategy of the police, while paramilitaries have faded in the backdrop.“Sometimes, they are deployed in areas where they were earlier active as Maoists. This helps them identify those who had attended meetings or given Maoists food back then. Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether these people still take part in such activities to the same extent or not,” she says.It is unclear whether their participation in such activities is voluntary or not in the first place as villagers are not in a position to say no to Maoists, she adds. “These protests, as I see it, is also due to the fear of an increased presence of the DRG in the area.”Mr. Sundarraj says typically a camp is set up by the DRG and the police. Later, if the situation warrants, paramilitaries can be moved in.