$500,000 grant supports National Energy Leadership Corps at Penn State

October 03, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State has received a $500,000 grant from the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania to support the National Energy Leadership Corps (NELC). Led by David Riley, executive director of Penn State’s Center for Sustainability, this interdisciplinary program supports workforce development as well as the research, teaching and service mission of the University. The Center for Sustainability in the College of Engineering, and University Extension and Outreach’s Penn State Center: Engaging Pittsburgh, will partner to develop and implement this effort.

The National Energy Leadership Corps (NELC) responds to two growing needs: educating homeowners to improve their energy literacy and training a workforce that can respond to increasing demand for assistance in improving home energy efficiency.

“It is well known that most homes can significantly reduce their energy costs by implementing various efficiency measures,” said Riley. “There are many ways to retrofit an existing home, all with varying levels of return on investment. However, without guidance from credentialed consultants, homeowners most often choose to do nothing rather than risk making uninformed and costly decisions. While some homes could benefit from capital intensive improvements such as new appliances, new windows, or high-tech solar solutions, low-income households cannot afford such strategies. Nevertheless, there are a handful of proven, inexpensive, ‘over-the-counter’ repairs and improvements that, if implemented, will result in noticeable energy savings.”

By mobilizing a group of trained individuals to provide free home energy assessments, NELC focuses on a new approach that facilitates multiple levels of energy efficiency measures for existing homes, Riley said.

“These issues create opportunity for a new effort in the low-income neighborhoods of the Pittsburgh region," he said. "An effort to increase the accessibility of home energy assessments can both directly help reduce homeowners’ energy bills, and at the same time give displaced and unemployed residents access to emerging jobs in the region -- jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

Homeowners receive customized energy profiles, enabling them to make wise investments of time and resources to improve energy efficiency and provide savings in household energy costs. Measures range from modest and low-cost improvements to extensive energy retrofits, but NELC methodology also takes into consideration the climate, age of home, and current habits to enrich the “occupant interaction,” an ongoing relationship with the homeowner that does not end with the delivery of recommendations.

“The benefit of this level of interaction is two-fold: not only are NELC members there to assist in understanding how to implement the plan, but also the occupant benefits from improving their literacy regarding sustainable energy use,” said Riley. “We are grateful to the BNY Mellon Foundation for funding this education and outreach program. The Foundation’s investment will enable us to digitize the education modules and disseminate programming through direct interaction with a low income neighborhood in Pittsburgh, laying the foundation for energy literacy among our most financially challenged neighbors.”

For more information about the NELC, visit http://www.cfs.psu.edu/programs/nelc.html online.

Last Updated October 12, 2011