Hundreds of Knoxville families have had an easier time staying comfortable in their homes this summer, thanks to the successful Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover program, which ends this fall.
In less than two years, Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover Program (KEEM) has provided free, whole-home, direct-install energy efficiency upgrades to nearly 1,300 lower-income families and educated more than 1,700 residents on how to take control of their utility bills through energy-saving habits.
“KEEM has transformed the landscape for energy efficiency in Knoxville,” says Mayor Madeline Rogero. “Making the homes of low-income families more energy efficient is a practical solution that creates long-term benefits for participants. KEEM partners can be proud of the impact this program has had on the Knoxville community.”
In 2015, TVA selected Knoxville to receive $15 million through the TVA Smart Communities: Extreme Energy Makeovers project. A team led by the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC) in partnership with the City of Knoxville, Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB), and the Alliance to Save Energy applied for this funding and received the largest award by TVA.
“Knoxville was a perfect match for this program because of CAC’s many years of experience providing weatherization and the strong local partnerships that ensured KEEM would successfully help families benefit from improved energy efficiency,” said Cindy Herron, Vice President of TVA Energy Right Solutions.
In total, KEEM has provided energy-efficiency upgrades to 1,278 Knoxville families. The improvements made were selected specifically for each home, with each upgrade designed to reduce each home’s annual electricity use by at least 25 percent. Common upgrades included installation of weather stripping, upgrades of heating units, air sealing, and insulation of walls, ducts, pipes and attics.
The upgrades KEEM has made so far are expected to save nearly 6,000,000 kWh each year – with average utility cost savings to families approaching $500 annually.
“The ability for a family to save money and budget based on lower utility costs can mean a great deal for their well-being and stability,” said CAC Executive Director Barbara Kelly. “It’s been an honor to be able to serve so many families in Knoxville over the last two years.”
In addition to helping families manage their utility bills through energy efficiency, the program also created economic opportunities for local businesses. The 1,200-plus retrofits completed to date reflect over $12 million dollars of direct economic impact in the local community – with over $8.5M going directly to local contractors who provided the energy upgrades.
KEEM also included efforts to educate the Knoxville community about ways to control utility bills through energy-efficient habits. Over the course of the program, the Alliance to Save Energy hosted more than 150 free, public educational workshops. The 1,700-plus area residents who attended these workshops learned low-cost ways to save energy and manage utility costs.
The inspiration and design for KEEM emerged from the Knoxville Smarter Cities Partnership, a coalition of more than 20 community organizations seeking to improve the quality, comfort and affordability of Knoxville homes through energy efficiency. KEEM is just one of several Smarter Cities Partnership initiatives designed to advance long-term solutions for low-income residents burdened with high utility bills due to aging housing.
While TVA funding for the program is ending, local partners will maintain the momentum provided by KEEM through several programs, including:
- KUB’s Round It Up program: KUB’s pilot Round It Up program has raised nearly $1.8 million to support energy-efficiency upgrades to income-eligible homes throughout KUB’s service territory. Whereas TVA funding was only for two years, Round It Up offers a sustainable, local funding source to support the CAC’s weatherization services. More information is available at https://www.kub.org/rounditup/.
- Savings in the House education campaign: With support from local partners, the Alliance to Save Energy will continue to provide regular workshops offering Knoxville residents information about no- and low-cost ways to save on their utility bills. Workshop schedules and energy-saving tips are available at www.savingsinthehouse.com.
- TVA Energy Right Solutions: This program provides homeowners and businesses opportunities for energy audits, advice on energy-saving practices, and rebates on certain energy efficiency upgrades. More information is available at https://www.energyright.com/.
The City and KEEM partners remain committed to working alongside other Smarter Cities partners to continue to develop additional resources and new funding sources to support energy-efficiency programs for the Knoxville community.
“We are so fortunate to have strong partners in this community to make KEEM such a success, but there is still so much to be done,” said Mintha Roach, KUB President and CEO. “We are grateful to have the Round It Up program in place so we can continue to meet the needs of our customers as they work to manage their utility costs.”