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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

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Clean Energy Works Portland

Clean Energy Works Portland (CEWP) was a first-in-the-nation pilot program for saving energy, improving a home’s comfort and value and reducing carbon emissions while creating high-quality jobs for Portland residents who really need them.

Recognizing that a major barrier to retrofitting existing buildings is the up-front cost of the improvements, CEWP was designed to provide a simple financing solution to energy efficiency improvements in 500 Portland homes.  Portland Mayor Sam Adams was particularly committed to creating new jobs and making sure that economic opportunity would flow toward historically underserved populations: low-income people, women and people of color.

The pilot launched in the summer of 2009. CEWP made its 500th loan in late February 2011, bringing the pilot to conclusion.

Funding the Clean Energy Works Portland Pilot

Using Recovery Act funds from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program and other City resources, BPS capitalized a revolving loan fund to offer pilot participants low-interest, long-term financing for home energy efficiency remodels.The pilot successfully attracted additional public and private investment, bringing the total loan portfolio to nearly $7 million.

In June 2010, Portland received a $20 million grant from the US Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Neighborhood Program  to expand Clean Energy Works Portland to other parts of Oregon.

What Did the Pilot Test?

The pilot tested whether people would install comprehensive energy efficiency upgrades (like insulation, air sealing and high-efficiency heating systems) in their homes within a short timeframe if they were offered a comprehensive package of services and benefits, including:

  • Easy access to long-term financing to cover the upfront costs (20-year loans at 5.99 percent).
  • The services of an independent, building science advisor, called an Energy Advocate.
  • The convenience of repaying the monthly loan obligation on the heating utility bill.

Results from the pilot so far suggest that this approach to selling energy efficiency is compelling to consumers. Not only did CEWP participants undertake deeper home retrofits than their counterparts in other local efficiency programs, but they made the decision to do so in a much shorter timeframe.

The pilot also tested a high-road approach to creating green jobs. High-road standards ensure that public investments create high-quality employment and equitable access for a diversity of businesses and workers.

Jobs and Equity Focus

Clean Energy Works Portland was designed in partnership with stakeholders to craft an agreement on high-road goals and strategies. Originally called the Community Workforce Agreement (CWA), it set forth a series of community goals and standards around job quality, diverse business participation and access to opportunity for workers from underserved and historically disadvantaged communities.

Community Partners

Clean Energy Works Portland was led by the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. The steering committee of CEWP included Craft3 (formerly Enterprise Cascadia), Multnomah County, Portland Development Commission, Energy Trust of Oregon, NW Natural, Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, Construction Apprenticeship & Workforce Solutions, Worksystems Inc., Portland Housing Bureau, Home Performance Contractors Guild and Green for All.

Mayor Adams appointed a Stakeholder Evaluation and Implementation Committee to oversee CEWP’s implementation of the CWA. Representatives from business, community-based organizations, organized labor, faith-based institutions and government worked together to define and establish high-road goals, standards and strategies. Green for All and the City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement helped facilitate and guide the conversation.


The CEWP pilot program has so far accomplished the following:

  • Investment of more than $6 million (payments to contractors).
  • 584 low-interest loans for whole-home energy remodels.
  • 20 percent or greater reduction in energy consumption in most homes
  • 1,400 metric tons of annual carbon emissions reductions.
  • Employment for more than 400 workers, including 48 new hires in the construction trades.
  • Average wages of nearly $20.34/hour.
  • Provision of health insurance by nearly 80% of the participating contracting firms.
  • 48 percent of the trade/technical hours worked by people of color (22 percent ofPortland’s residents are people of color; the Community Workforce Agreement (CWA) goal was 30 percent).
  • A doubling of state and national rates of participation by women in construction.
  • 23 percent of pilot dollars to minority-owned or women-owned small businesses (CWA goal was 20 percent).
  • Positive customer experiences. 94 percent of participants surveyed said they would recommend the program to friends or family.

Better Buildings Grant and Statewide Expansion

In 2010 the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability was granted a $20 million award from the Department of Energy’s Better Building Neighborhood Program  to expand the CEWP pilot across Oregon.  To facilitate this expansion, BPS created the non-profit organization Clean Energy Works Oregon Inc to deliver energy efficiency services to homeowners throughout Oregon.  Learn more about CEWO here.