U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Congressman Perriello Join Crozet Event with Local Homeowners, Contractors

For Immediate Release: October 29, 2010

Charlottesville, VA –  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited Central Virginia today where he joined Congressman Tom Perriello to talk about ways to create jobs and rebuild rural community housing stock.  They visited a local home that has recently undergone energy efficiency renovations with LEAP, a local non-profit that provides rebates, incentives, financing and quality assurance through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. LEAP has been the recipient of nearly $3 million from the Recovery Act to forward-fund efficiency upgrades in Central Virginia. Rural Star, which Perriello has co-sponsored, takes the LEAP model to rural areas through loans to public utilities and electric coops to support energy efficiency financing.


“I have been evangelical about LEAP, Rural Star, and other programs to forward-fund renovations as a way to reduce Americans’ electric bills while supporting American construction jobs and American-manufactured products, like insulation and window films. Now both parties in the House have become believers in this common sense way to help rural families and seniors save money on their electric bills and increase home values,” said Rep. Perriello. “LEAP, Rural Star, and programs like it will put people back to work, which is why they enjoy support from home builders, co-ops and environmental groups.”


“In a tough economy, people want to save money on their energy bills but don’t know where or how to start. Meanwhile businesses are struggling to create jobs. LEAP takes an innovative approach to jumpstart investments in home energy efficiency, making the process easy for homeowners and providing new job opportunities for contractors,” said Cynthia Adams, Executive Director of LEAP (www.leap-va.org).


Already more than 100 homeowners have already signed up for LEAP’s Home Energy Performance with ENERGY STAR program, building on the momentum created by LEAP’s Home Energy Makeover Contest which drew more than 1,100 entrants. Policies that facilitate energy efficiency improvements in the residential and commercial sectors are key to meeting future energy needs and to meeting Governor McDonnell’s vision to make Virginia “the energy capital of the East Coast.”


LEAP, along with the State Energy Office and groups and agencies across the Commonwealth, has leveraged federal funding to help homeowners through the maze and hurdles at the front end of a process that pays dividends in the long run. The high return on investment to taxpayers and homeowners is matched by the strong “jobs per kilowatt ratio” through work in the manufacturing, contracting and construction fields such as producing and installing insulation and window film and upgrading heating and cooling systems.


“LEAP and others are bringing work to our door.  We have hired two more people this week and expanded into some consulting work.  We are also happy that customers are getting a more complete assessment of the energy related issues of their homes because this creates higher satisfaction after the job, knowing that the real problems were addressed,” said Sean Wallace of Anchor Insulation Systems. “Last, the energy efficiency sector of the housing industry is one sector we are will continue to see significant growth.”


“We wanted to stay in our house for the long run, but we were paying for its age in drafty rooms and high energy bills,” said Nicholas Duke of Crozet who worked with LEAP to upgrade his home’s energy efficiency. “With LEAP our house went from Swiss cheese to American cheese, and we can already feel the difference. We can tell  our home is far more comfortable now, and the cost savings will be the bonus we were looking for.”


LEAP is a community-based nonprofit serving Albemarle, Louisa, Fluvanna, Greene, and Nelson Counties, and the City of Charlottesville. Our mission is to facilitate unprecedented energy and water savings through energy efficiency retrofits in residential and commercial buildings. Based on an alliance and membership model, LEAP works directly with property owners as well as local government, utilities, the contracting community, and other nonprofits to help create a sustainable energy future for us all. www.leap-va.org.




Rural Star

The Rural Energy Savings Program Act, commonly known as “Rural Star,” passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010. It would:

• • Provide $4.9 billion in loan authority through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to rural electric cooperatives to offer low-interest micro-loans to residential and small business customers for energy-saving retrofits and structural improvements.

• • Help homeowners in rural areas jumpstart energy efficiency upgrades. Participating customers would repay the co-ops for the installation and material costs through a monthly charge on their utility bills. The energy savings from the upgrade will cover most, if not all, of the charge and, once the loan is repaid, families will save hundreds of dollars every year.

• • Repay to taxpayers every dollar loaned by RUS to the co-ops within 10 years.

• • Create 20,000-40,000 jobs a year.



LEAP By the Numbers:

20-40%: Energy savings goal for each house through LEAP’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR retrofit

18 – 25: Direct jobs in the constructions industry created for every $1 million invested in Home Performance with ENERGY STAR retrofits

400: Home energy retrofits LEAP plans to conduct in the coming year

60: Jobs in our local community created as a result

$500,000: Grant from the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) that provided seed money for LEAP; funding was initially awarded to the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County

$1.9 million: Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help weatherize low-income multifamily housing in the Charlottesville-Albemarle and Hampton Roads communities

$800,000: Department of Energy Better Buildings grant funding to LEAP currently being used to provide rebates to homeowners on energy efficiency improvements

$3,700: Potential savings on home energy efficiency in a sample Home Performance with ENERGY STAR job that includes air and duct sealing, insulation upgrade, HVAC and water heater upgrade:

$250   LEAP Home Performance Assessment Rebate
$1500 LEAP Retrofit Performance-Based Rebate for 30% projected efficiency gain
$1500 Energy Star Tax Credit
$100   Charlottesville Gas Programmable Thermostat Rebate
$100   Charlottesville Gas Water Heater Rebate
$250   VA Appliance Rebate (furnace)


The Homeowner Experience

Nicholas Duke, Gardner Bloemers and their family, when planning updates for their home, took a proactive approach with LEAP to also consider the long-term durability, safety and energy efficiency of their house. This included correcting insulation voids in the walls, installing an on-demand hot water heater and energy efficient windows and door . The results have been, according to Duke, “remarkable.”

40%: Expected energy savings
55%: Reduction in air flow leakage
50%: Improvement in HVAC equipment
R38: Attic insulation level, up from R10