Those who don’t share program results, condemn others to repeat mistakes.

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groundhog_day_movieGeorge Santayana got it right. So did Phil Connors, the Bill Murray character in Groundhog Day. Rather than repeat the same mistakes over and over again, he learned from the “past” right up to the point where he got to stop repeating it.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case with Home Performance programs. Utilities and program implementers hold those mistake cards–and even many of the success cards–pretty close to the chest. So rather than learn lessons we repeat the same experiments over and over, even if they repeated yield less than stellar results.

Why don’t we know more about the cash flow problems that have been created by program rebate and financing? Because the programs don’t want to talk about it! And the evaluators don’t look at it.

What about the end goals of saving energy? Try to find real data–not just summary reports–about energy savings with having to go through a FOIA (or state equivalent) process. And let’s line that up with the incentives needed to get there on a house-by-house basis.

Sometimes we’ll see what marketing worked. That’s useful. But why not share all the things that didn’t work so we can learn for that?

City of Fresno, I’ll call you out on this. You claim your audit program has saved eye-popping levels of energy, at the low price of $600 per audit plus incentives from utility programs. How about showing the line item data to support that? Yes, I understand you can’t share the addresses, but there are easy ways to anonymize this data.

How about sharing the important metrics, in easily accessible forms, like kWh saved per program dollar spent?  “We retrofitted 300 homes saving an average of 1200 kWh per home.” Nice. Did it cost you $100 per home? $1,000 per home? $10,000 per home?

When taxpayer and ratepayer dollars are spent on efficiency programs, we should be sharing information about what works and what doesn’t work widely and freely. That’s the only way we’ll improve. It’s simply not being done well enough.

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About the Author:

Mike Rogers is the President of OmStout Consulting. A nationally recognized expert in residential energy-efficiency, he works with contractors and programs to scale sustainable market approaches to improving homes. More on Google+

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