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A place called home: Helping California families rebuild after wildfires

November 21, 2019

As California continues to suffer from the effects of major wildfires, energy providers are offering creative solutions to help communities get back on their feet. The Advanced Energy Rebuild (AER) Program  provides financial and technical support to homeowners as they rebuild high-efficiency homes lost in the Sonoma and Mendocino county fires.

While the region may be perceived as affluent, many residents affected by wildfires have been senior citizens and small business owners. The challenges left behind for these individuals spurred community choice energy provider Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) and utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to develop the AER program in partnership with TRC, helping rebuild above-code homes, apartments and condos, which deliver strong energy and money savings. It also presents renewable energy, electric vehicle and low-carbon design options for greater environmental benefits.

Participating homeowners are saving on average $650 per year on utility bills. Additionally, greenhouse gas savings from the program are equal to the carbon captured by 400 acres of US forests per year. The program is also providing inspiration to the industry, receiving a Bay Area Metro Award for its innovative, collaborative effort in achieving the resilience goal of rebuilding stronger, greener homes.

A unique partnership model

The AER program is the culmination of creative partnership among SCP, PG&E and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and is managed by TRC. While each organization was deeply committed to providing wildfire support, it was their collaboration that yielded the biggest opportunities; pooling resources offered more to the community and presenting a single program reduced confusion for participating homeowners.

Rather than competing, each organization brought unique assets to the partnership. SCP’s local presence best suited it for marketing, outreach and customer-service. PG&E has funded program administration provided by TRC, leveraging existing infrastructure from the utility’s highly successful California Advanced Home Program; while BAAQMD contributed incremental incentives for solar and electrification measures.

Delivering an easy-to-access, effective program

With local homeowners struggling to navigate the rebuilding process and put their lives back together, SCP and PG&E knew the program needed to be easily accessible. The goal was to eliminate as many barriers as possible for participants.

Through the program, homeowners receive a high-level of support through the application process and from program staff sensitive to their goals and situation. The program aims to reach homeowners early – while they are still making home design decisions – and provides up-front incentive payment. Homeowners also have flexible choices for their home design and 36 months to build their approved homes, which has spurred positive program participation.

In addition to working directly with homeowners, the program catalyzes broader industry support by educating professionals like architects, contractors, energy analysts and HERS raters on the value of high efficiency home design and new technologies.

Success and path into the future

In its first year, the program received applications for more than 200 dwelling units, more than half of those single-family homes. A total of 66 projects enrolled –  with an average of 26 percent higher energy efficiency levels than a standard home. An impressive 42 percent of the enrolled single-family units selected an all-electric design path, contributing to lower greenhouse gas emissions and 18 percent chose solar and energy storage.

What’s next for the program? SCP and PG&E are envisioning a deeper emphasis on strategic electrification and other creative solutions to support state decarbonization and zero net energy goals. After just a few months of program operation in Sonoma County, PG&E re–teamed with BAAQMD on a similar program that combined forces with Marin Clean Energy to help rebuild communities in Napa County. Other utilities are considering similar programs in disaster-stricken areas of California.

While California communities address the underlying drivers behind wildfires, TRC is honored to support programs like the AER program that provides much-needed assistance to our friends and neighbors, setting them up for long-term energy success.

Learn more about TRC’s advanced energy program solutions.

Nic Dunfee

Nic Dunfee is the TRC Project Manager for the Advanced Energy Rebuild Program and specializes in high-efficiency and strategic electrification energy solutions. He leads several California residential programs, including design, implementation, and management of the programs – which contribute to state efficiency, carbon reduction, and zero net energy goals. Contact Nic at

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