An Evaluation of Coordinated Energy Services, A Comprehensive Low Income Conservation Program

In 1985, six Minneapolis government and non-profit agencies formed Coordinated Energy Services (CES) at the prompting of the local gas utility. (The name was changed later to Project CHOICE.) The program's goals were to 1) reduce gas use in low-income households with high use, 2) reduce arrearages and improve energy bill payment patterns of clients and 3) coordinate the involved agencies to eliminate redundancies and optimize energy-related services.

Clients attended an educational workshop and received a house doctor visit and in 35% of sample cases, other major work such as attic or wall insulation or furnace replacement. House doctoring work produced an average gas savings of 8.2% ± 10.1% of normalized annual consumption and had a simple payback of 5 years; major retrofits plus house doctoring saved 20.8% ± 14.6% and had a payback of 10 years.

Clients were also offered a budget plan, in which the Minneapolis Energy Office monitored monthly gas payments, and 52% of the evaluation sample chose to participate. The monitored group began the program with better payment patterns than the unmonitored group (in terms of number of payments made in a year and arrearages at the time of the workshop). But in the year following the workshop, the two groups became quite similar. This suggests that the shared elements of the program, such as the workshop and house doctoring, were more effective in improving payment behavior than intensive monitoring. Overall, the program improved payment patterns and appeared to reduce the need for fuel assistance grants.
 

Full Report (PDF)
An Evaluation of Coordinated Energy Services: A Comprehensive Low Income Conservation Program (Project Choice)