Ask the Expert: What is the Efficiency Excellence Network?
The Efficiency Excellence Network (EEN) is a trade network of independent efficiency professionals. What does that mean? These are the local businesses that make efficiency projects happen in Vermont. They include weatherization contractors, architects, builders, installers, suppliers, and distributors. EEN members work with Vermonters through every step of their efficiency projects. Network members are dedicated to customer satisfaction and helping Vermonters save energy and money. The EEN is a critical part of Vermont’s ability to reduce carbon pollution statewide.
Bryn Oakleaf is the EEN Program Manager at Efficiency Vermont. We sat down with Bryn to understand how the EEN supports Vermonters, its members, and the whole state.
Bryn: Any time you’re starting an efficiency project that requires a skilled professional. EEN members are experts in energy saving technologies and services. Their expertise helps make buildings more energy-efficient and affordable to maintain. They are also trained to consider important health and safety measures in buildings.
EEN members have exclusive access to certain Efficiency Vermont incentives and financing. When you work with an EEN member, you can use low- or no-interest financing on efficiency upgrades. EEN members also work directly with Efficiency Vermont staff to maximize available offers for every project.
Bryn: There are over 450 businesses in the EEN. EEN members are:
- Heating, cooling, and ventilation contractors
- Weatherization contractors
- Refrigeration experts
- Equipment suppliers
- Lighting designers
- Electric vehicle dealerships
- And more!
EEN members work in homes, businesses, and industrial or school settings. They can help you rethink your living or working space to save money and energy. Members provide customers with the highest level of energy efficiency services.
Bryn: Start with our Find a Pro or Retailer search tool. You can search for the type of work you’re looking for. Look for the Efficiency Excellence Network logo on the listing. The listing includes the services provided, reviews, and contact information.
Choosing the right contractor is key to a successful project. Do your research ahead of engaging a contractor. Talk to friends and neighbors about who they’ve worked with. Reach out to a few contractors before making your decision. Ask about project timing and cost estimates. This research will help ensure satisfaction with the final project.
Bryn: EEN members are a core part of how we deliver efficiency to Vermonters. Members benefit through:
- Access to members-only incentives and financing for their customers
- A listing on the Efficiency Vermont website
- Educational materials on the benefits of energy efficiency to help promote their work
- Access to co-op marketing funds to advertise their business
- A direct line to Efficiency Vermont experts when they’re on the job. We answer questions about incentive eligibility, project design and engineering, and more.
- Free or low-cost trainings to ensure members understand the latest technology, products, and services
But I’d say the biggest benefit is the Network itself. We host members-only events such as regular calls with businesses doing similar work and appreciation events. These events give members the chance to connect with each other and with Efficiency Vermont. The Network has a shared goal of helping Vermonters save energy and money. We all learn from each other. Members identify opportunities to collaborate and reach Vermonters in new ways. And they share timely feedback with us about our incentive program design and changes that may be needed.
That’s my favorite part of the job. We get to hear from EEN members directly. We learn from their depth of experience working in Vermonters’ homes and businesses. We get their feedback on how customers respond to our offers. We learn what works and what doesn’t. That way we can continuously improve on this partnership.
We host training sessions both online and in person throughout the year. Training opportunities include professional certification requirements and skill-based career development workshops. We offer training events with product manufacturers on the latest technology. We bring in industry experts to share their wisdom. Trainings are for entry-level workers to seasoned professionals looking to hone their craft.
We also host an efficient design and build conference, Better Buildings by Design (BBD). The annual conference is an opportunity for EEN members to build their knowledge and their network. They make connections and spark ideas that result in business improvements and applicable innovations in the coming year. Many workshops at BBD count towards professional certifications necessary for EEN members. The BBD conference is an opportunity for members to enhance their careers.
Bryn: The EEN supports businesses that are already a part of the efficiency workforce and skilled professionals who are looking to join. We help workers achieve continuing education to advance their careers and give them a market edge over their competition. We also connect EEN members to qualified project leads to help them grow year-over-year. When there’s more demand for efficiency, there are sustained job opportunities and pathways to career advancement. These attractive jobs can even help bring new talent to Vermont.
In Vermont, 56% of the clean energy workforce works in energy efficiency. That’s close to 10,000 Vermonters. These are local, good-paying jobs. In 2020, the Vermont Department of Public Service found that clean energy jobs pay better wages than the state average.
But we also know that these excellent jobs aren’t spread evenly. The current workforce lacks gender and racial diversity. And yet we’re facing a shortage of workers in several key areas like weatherization and home construction. I am focused on expanding our outreach and professional opportunities to attract new workers and grow the EEN. We have partnered with ReSource, Vermont Works for Women, Vermont Technical College, and many distributor partners to offer training options for Vermonters. We also offer scholarships for students to attend our annual BBD conference. We want to reach people who are looking for a career change or just starting out.
During the initial COVID-19 shutdown, many customers could not complete in-person projects. This was especially difficult for trade professionals. We made sure that EEN members had access to professional development opportunities. When they couldn’t be in the field, they could be training staff. Efficiency Vermont then launched special offers to keep customers motivated to complete projects. Many EEN companies never stopped working at all. We surveyed EEN members in Fall 2021 to learn how their businesses were faring. 84% of EEN members kept staffing level or hired new workers since before COVID-19.
This shows how important it is to ensure these jobs are accessible to the entire population. EEN members are resilient and provided essential project support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any Vermonter who wants a good-paying, stable job should consider joining the efficiency workforce with one of our many EEN Members. We are excited to welcome new EEN members to achieve Vermont’s climate and energy goals.