Merkley: Clean Energy Retrofits Hit the “Job Creation Trifecta”

Portland – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley visited a Northeast Portland home today to see how an innovative Portland program is creating jobs and lowering energy costs by financing weatherization projects for local homeowners.

The construction project Merkley visited is supported by Clean Energy Works Portland, which was launched with about $1.1 million in federal Economic Recovery Act funds.  The program, started by the City of Portland, enables homeowners to access low-interest, long-term financing for quick, easy and affordable investments in energy efficiency.

Workers at the home of Roberta Hunte are making several energy-saving upgrades, including adding insulation, caulking windows and doors to prevent heat loss and adding vents to improve air quality.  Energy savings can help Hunte pay off the costs of the improvements over time.   

“This is the kind of innovative thinking Oregon is known for,” Merkley said.  “These retrofits are simultaneously creating jobs in a construction industry that needs them badly, supporting a growing clean energy sector and putting more money in the pockets of families and businesses – it’s a job creation trifecta.  And I’m going to make sure the next jobs legislation that comes out of the U.S. Senate has more funding for programs like this.”

“The Clean Energy Works Portland program, while making it affordable for residents to embrace energy efficiency, is also a great opportunity for us to hire more people, train more weatherization workers and create a new wave of ‘green jobs’ to help reduce our unemployment rate,” said Berenice Lopez-Dorsey, the retrofit contractor on Hunte’s home.

Clean Energy Works Portland is in a 500-home pilot phase and is already putting people to work at Hunte’s home and other homes throughout Portland. It is projected to create 55 jobs by this summer.

Merkley has for months been urging Senate leaders and the White House to support home and small business energy retrofits as a mechanism for creating jobs.  The idea has begun to catch on.  In December, Merkley was President Obama’s guest at a Washington, DC-area Home Depot event promoting weatherization as part of an upcoming jobs initiative.

State Representatives Jules Bailey (D-42) and Lew Frederick (D-43), State Senator Chip Shields (D-22) and Portland Mayor Sam Adams all joined Merkley on the visit. Legislation sponsored by Bailey, as well as State Representatives Tobias Read (D-27) and Tim Freeman (R-2) passed the Oregon State Legislature in 2009 and will bring a similar program to homeowners statewide.

Bailey’s bill also served as a model for Senator Merkley’s Clean Energy for Homes and Buildings Act, co-sponsored by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN).  Merkley is working to have a program based on this bill included in federal job-creation legislation and in the energy and climate change bill being considered by the Senate.

Clean Energy Works Portland is a program of the City of Portland, in collaboration with Multnomah County, ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia, Energy Trust of Oregon, NW Natural, Pacific Power, Portland General Electric, Worksystems, Inc., and Green For All, according to the City of Portland.