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JULY 1991


The Super Good Cents (SGC) program was established in 1984 by the Bonneville Power Administration to promote the construction of energy-efficient electrically heated residences. Bonneville's program incorporates the Model Conservation Standards (MCS) of the Northwest Power Planning Council. The program was designed to encourage energy efficient building practices through the stimulation of market demand, training and financial assistance. The overall goal of the program is to develop support for the adoption of the MCS in state and local building codes throughout the region.

In 1989, a process evaluation was completed by Columbia Information Systems covering the program from inception through the end of 1988. In late 1990, Bonneville hired ERCE Demand Side Management Services to conduct a follow-up process evaluation covering the past two years (1989 and 1990).

The present evaluation consists of three components: evaluation of overall SGC program operation, evaluation of the Manufactured Housing program and evaluation of the Energy Efficient Mortgage effort. This report focuses on the existing SGC program. The other two evaluations are presented in separate reports. Most of the specific discussion and findings pertinent to either manufactured housing or energy efficient mortgage activities are contained in the other reports.

Evaluation Overview
The process evaluation begins where the previous evaluation left off at the beginning of 1989. This evaluation is not a comprehensive assessment of program operations and outcomes. Instead, it focuses on changes in program operations over the past two years and differentiates between activities in Oregon and Washington where MCS-level statewide building codes have been adopted and are about to be implemented, versus Idaho and Montana where no statewide codes exist.

Aside from reviewing program operations, the evaluation explores the effect of new MCS-based building codes in Washington and Oregon, issues surrounding the transfer of responsibility for MCS-level construction to building agencies, and the utility role in a long-term SGC program. In Montana and Idaho, the evaluation assesses the implications of offering the existing program in a limited area (where local jurisdictions have not adopted MCS-level codes), and the plans of utilities for continuing to offer the existing program or the new long-term program.

Except for the documentation of certain program outcomes, the process evaluation was essentially qualitative in nature and relied on in-depth discussions with Bonneville headquarters staff involved in program management, Bonneville Area office staff in regional implementation, SGC representatives from 50 participating utilities, state energy office representatives, and consultants/contractors. In addition to these interviews, background materials were obtained along with program outcomes data such as certifications, housing starts, utility and builder participation levels, and training program attendance.

Throughout 1989 and 1990 the SGC program continued to provide a useful service to builders and home buyers throughout the region. There were no dramatic changes in the territory reached by the program since nearly all of the utilities continued to participate. There were few problems with program implementation and all utilities were highly favorable towards the program.

The SGC name and logo have an established reputation of quality following six years of program operation and advertising. SGC is now synonymous with high quality and a high level of energy efficiency. The momentum and acceptance built up over this period is a valuable asset for carrying forward the region's energy efficiency agenda.

Since surveys were not part of this evaluation, no conclusion can be drawn at this time regarding the program's goals of increasing consumer and builder awareness and acceptance. The best proxy for measuring these goals are program penetration and builder participation levels.

The program saw dramatic increases in the number of single and multi-family homes certified. Nearly all of the new electrically heated housing starts and SGC homes were in Washington and Oregon. The large number of certifications did not translate into large increases in region wide program penetration mostly due to the fact that there was a correspondingly large increase in new electrically heated housing starts. Most of these new starts occurred in the Puget Sound area and northern Oregon where an economic upswing has been under way for several years. As a result, overall program penetration has remained significantly below projected program targets (26% in 1990 versus a 60% target). Penetration rates are still low in the service areas of several large utilities which are now in their second or third year of program operation, while a few have achieved greater than 50% penetration.

A positive note is that more medium and large utilities are achieving penetration rates over 40%. Pacific Power and Snohomish PUD reached 50% penetration by 1990. Fifteen utilities had achieved penetration rates exceeding the regional program goal of 60% in 1990. Penetration for the current program will no longer be an issue in Washington after July 1, 1991, and in Oregon after January 1, 1992, when the new codes go into affect.

The magnitude of program influence has shifted since 1988. Aside from high levels of certifications, more builders built their first SGC home in 1989 or 1990 than in all prior years combined. There are now 3,453 builders (including owner-builders) who have built at least one SGC home. The program will have an impact on their future projects whether fully or only partially SGC.

The biggest influence on the program was the widespread adoption of MCS-level codes, including statewide codes in Washington and Oregon. Although these state codes did not go into effect during 1989 or 1990, their certainty has raised questions about the long-term role of the SGC program. In some cases, where jurisdictions have adopted the code, utilities have either shut down or scaled back their SGC efforts. Others are anticipating doing so as state codes go into effect.

One finding that has implications for code adoption and the long-term program relates to the level of compliance. The Oversight and Monitoring reviews found significant levels of deviations from specifications or as-planned documentation. Although many of these problems were small items having little effect on energy efficiency, a number were more significant. For example, about half of all projects reviewed had ceiling insulation somewhat below required levels. The number of deviations alone, after six years of program operations, suggests a continuing need for quality control through technical assistance, training and monitoring, whether by SGC utilities or code officials. Operating a long-term program with standards exceeding code would be even more likely to have compliance problems.

The states now play a key role in the implementation of the program. They are involved in all technical aspects from training and technical support to specification revisions and WATTSUN modifications.

There has been a recent slow-down in utility training and technical assistance activities, due in part to code adoption and increased emphasis on NWEC training and also because utilities have longer program experience. Nonetheless, advanced technical training is still considered valuable by the utilities. Some ongoing training will always be needed to accommodate utility staff turnover and program changes.

Offering a region wide advertising campaign would be difficult with two different program offerings, particularly where any given utility decides to operate both the existing program and an advanced (long-term) SGC program. Having a campaign that provides specific information about program offerings would be difficult. Having different ads for each program would be confusing.

A scaled back program in Idaho and Montana would have implications for marketing assistance. Specifically, a region wide campaign would be limited in its message and local advertising would be necessary. Currently, 20 of the utilities interviewed develop their own advertising and do not use the regional material because they consider it less relevant to their areas.

There is generally a high level of interest and support among utilities in a long-term SGC program with specifications exceeding the new code levels. The utilities see it as an important public relations tool allowing them to provide a good customer service. It would also help them stay in touch with the builders and trade allies they have developed contacts with.

The larger utilities in Washington and Oregon have no problems with a new long-term program that exceeds code levels. They see it in their interest to offer something of value to their customers and a way to continually improve new housing stock. As mentioned above, there appears to be a need to ensure quality construction and assist with compliance issues after codes are implemented. This function is also required as long as the SGC trademark is being used.

Rural utilities have reservations about a program that has higher standards than the current program because the existing levels are not fully accepted yet. Construction activity is too low for many builders to have had much experience with the program. However, a voluntary advanced program without required penetration levels would likely be acceptable.

The concerns voiced by utilities, Area Offices and states over a program upgrade include: (1) there will be confusion among builders, realtors and consumers about the new program versus the old one; (2) there needs to be a clear distinction between the new SGC and the old one, particularly as it relates to labels, appraisals and marketing; (3) there may be too great of an increment in Idaho and Montana over non-SGC practice; and (4) there is concern whether the long-term program will be voluntary or subject to the surcharge.

Recommendations were developed from the evaluation findings for program improvements, applications of the long-term program, and monitoring and evaluation.

Utilities are generally pleased with the existing program. The only aspects they suggested removing from the program are the environmental requirements such as radon monitoring and the distribution of indoor air quality brochures.

The existing SGC program should be kept as a tool for ensuring continuity and to provide an extra mark of quality over all other code homes. SGC participation can help with overall code compliance. SGC can also be the technical vehicle for assisting builders in meeting code.

The monitoring effort should be improved by focusing on significant performance-related measures and more directly linked to training and technical assistance activities for better compliance. Monitoring can fulfill a technical assistance role by helping builders see how to improve their work through real-life examples.

Peer training among and particularly within utilities should be encouraged to help maintain consistent program implementation in the face of changing staff and management.

If both the existing SGC program and the long-term (advanced) SGC program are to be offered at the same time, the focus of the regional advertising campaign should be reduced to a continuation of the name and logo recognition level. Support should be increased for local advertising efforts that are locality-specific.

Aspects of the program that will be helpful in maintaining consistency of implementation, whether within a state or across the region, should be continued. These activities include training, monitoring and technical assistance.

Key program components to include in the long-term program are advanced technical training, monitoring, on-call technical assistance, both technical and financial support for local advertising and promotions, and periodic assemblies or conferences to keep the SGC spirit and momentum alive and allow sharing of solutions to problems.

Data tracking continuity should be emphasized as the program changes. Builder and consumer surveys should be conducted at the end of 1991 or in 1992, after the new long-term program is offered, to assess the effects of multiple programs, code adoption and changes in marketing.

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