University Park’s STEP-UP Program Announces Annual Results and Expansion

Release Date: Saturday, January 28, 2012

University Park, Md., January 28, 2012 – The Town of University Park today marks the one-year anniversary of its $1.42M, three-year, U.S. Department of Energy-funded Small Town Energy Program for University Park (STEP-UP) by announcing its impressive first-year results and expansion of the program into neighboring communities.

At a Community Energy Fair today, Mayor John Tabori will announce that 22 percent of University Park’s 923 homeowners have signed up to participate in STEP-UP, and that 10 percent of homeowners completed home energy efficiency improvements within the program’s first year. 

The program’s total first-year energy savings are in excess of 60,000 kWh of electricity and 7,500 therms of natural gas. Mayor Tabori says the savings are equivalent “to the entire annual energy consumption of eight local homes and a 100-ton reduction in greenhouse gases going into the Earth’s atmosphere.” 

Tabori adds, “The impressive savings are just the tip of the iceberg.  As more homeowners sign up to participate in STEP-UP, the savings go up, the homeowners’ costs go down and we emit less greenhouse gas.  It’s a win-win.”

Homeowner Costs Defrayed by Rebates

Participants in the program first have their home assessed by a qualified home energy contractor. The resulting assessment includes costs for targeted energy efficiency improvements in the home, averaging $3,700 per household.  With rebates averaging 60 percent of that total cost, the average net out-of-pocket expense for a homeowner is $1,400 – a return on investment of 26 percent and a simple payback period of about four years. After that, the ongoing energy savings mean money in the homeowners’ pockets.

Besides the energy-related savings and benefits, the Department of Energy grant has also had a direct impact on local jobs and the local economy.  Since the start of the grant, 35 contractors have been engaged on the project, nine full-time jobs have been created and more than $700,000 has been invested in the local economy.

 “University Park and its STEP-UP program can be a model for many similarly-sized towns in the United States looking to help homeowners lower their energy bills,” says DOE Better Buildings Neighborhood Program Director Danielle Sass Byrnett.  “Across the country, programs like STEP-UP are increasing the demand for energy-saving products and services and helping families save money."

Expanding Program to Neighboring Towns

The success of the program’s first year has encouraged Project Director Chuck Wilson to suggest launching STEP-UP in adjacent communities that can test University Park’s Better Buildings Neighborhood Program models for recruiting participants and assessing program benefits. 

To that end, Riverdale Park, Hyattsville and unincorporated College Heights Estates will be invited to consider initiating customized STEP-UP programs in the coming months.  Wilson notes, “The STEP-UP grant was awarded based on the plan to build case studies, so that other small towns could replicate our actions and get the same results. So let’s test our current experience and put it to work for our neighbors!”

Also announced today was the planned installation of the first federally-funded solar array on a Prince Georges County public school – in fact, at the site of the community energy fair, the University Park Elementary School. The plant will provide 50 kilowatts of clean power.

"The new solar array at University Park Elementary School will provide benefits for today’s students and the next generation. We’re excited to show the public that being energy efficient can lead to being cost-effective," said Amber Waller, PGCPS Board of Education member, District 3. "On behalf of Prince George’s County Board of Education, I want to commend University Park officials on the STEP-UP initiative. Prince George's County Public Schools looks forward to partnering with the Town of University Park on this energy initiative, and I thank you for selecting our school.”

At the Community Energy Fair, residents from University Park, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park and College Heights Estates can talk with contractors about home energy assessments, energy-efficiency improvements and high-efficiency and renewable energy system upgrade options. Also present will be experts on advanced home energy systems and products – such as geothermal, solar, efficient lighting and windows and smart meters – to help attendees gain deeper knowledge of these topics.

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