Slow Progress and Uncertain Energy Savings in Program To Weatherize Low-Income Households

EMD-80-59: Published: May 15, 1980. Publicly Released: May 15, 1980.

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As required by Federal legislation, a review was undertaken of the Department of Energy's (DOE) weatherization assistance program and its covered activities during fiscal year 1978. Through fiscal year 1978, DOE and the Community Services Administration (CSA) administered nearly identical low-income weatherization programs. However, in fiscal year 1979, the CSA low-income weatherization program was not funded, and DOE was given full responsibility for weatherizing the homes of low-income persons to reduce high utility bills and conserve energy. The DOE program is administered on a decentralized basis through 10 regional offices. Moreover, grant funds are provided to the States which, in turn, redistribute the money to local administering agencies for program implementation.

Although the Low-Income Weatherization Program of DOE could go a long way toward conserving energy and reducing the utility bills of people least able to afford them, the Program has been hampered by: (1) a lack of procedures for selecting homes; (2) problems in obtaining sufficient labor; (3) a lack of emphasis on rental units; (4) legal limits on administrative expenses at the local level; and (5) inadequate financial management and program monitoring at the Federal, State, and local levels. Additionally, only about 96,000 homes, as opposed to the estimated 393,000 homes, were reported by DOE as weatherized through December 31, 1978; and even this figure is overstated because it includes homes weatherized under the CSA program.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should: (1) implement program regulations that will require local agencies to select homes to be weatherized from priority lists, after considering both the magnitude of potential energy savings and the need to reach low-income people; (2) revise the progress reporting system to ensure that the total number of homes weatherized under DOE and CSA programs are identified and reported accurately; (3) instruct DOE regional offices, the States, and the local administering agencies to place more emphasis on providing program benefits to occupants of rental units; (4) closely monitor the adequacy of administrative funds and, if problems continue, ask Congress to relax the 10-percent limitation; (5) design a monitoring system to provide DOE with assurance that the States' monitoring of local agencies is adequate to identify and correct accounting, unallowable expenditures, reporting, and inventory problems; and (6) require the scope of annual Certified Public Accountants audits of local administering agencies to include work which will determine if financial management systems meet Federal requirements and if program expenditures are allowable. Additionally, the Secretaries of Energy and Labor should continue to monitor the labor situation and periodically assess the effectiveness of their efforts. Moreover, DOE should grant waivers permitting weatherization funds to pay for labor costs only after all reasonable efforts to obtain labor resources have been exhausted, and DOE determines that denial of a waiver will cause weatherization funds to remain idle.

    Agency Affected:

 

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