Congressional Briefing: Building Electrification, Health and Workforce

Congressional Briefing: Building Electrification, Health and Workforce

On Wednesday, April 6th 2022, BlocPower was invited to speak at a Congressional briefing for the Progressive Caucus in the United State House of Representatives. BlocPower's Clare Doyle Dowd, Director of Policy and Community, joined Dr. Leah Stokes Rewiring America's Senior Policy Counsel and Trisha Miller, Elevate's Chief Innovation and Development Officer.

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 6, 2022 – Good afternoon. My name is Clare Doyle Dowd, and I am the Director of Policy and Community at BlocPower. 

BlocPower is a Brooklyn-based climate technology company that focuses on analyzing, financing and installing efficient and all-electric energy equipment in low-and moderate-income buildings. We have upgraded over 1,200 buildings across NYC, and we have energy efficiency and electrification projects in over 25 U.S. cities. 

Residents of the Bed-Stuy neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York

Through energy efficiency and electrification projects, BlocPower is not only reducing emissions, but helping to solve for three compounding issues in the communities that we work in: 

1) energy affordability 

2) healthier communities and learning

3) good, green jobs 

Our founder, Donnel Baird, was inspired to start this company because of his own childhood. He grew up in a Brooklyn apartment with no heat.

Every night, his family would turn on the gas burner and open up the oven door. His dad was a mechanical engineer, so they knew the oven produced carbon monoxide and other toxins and was not safe. So, they opened the windows to help clear the air. 

You do not need to be an engineer or the CEO of a clean tech startup to know that releasing toxic gas into homes is bad for public health and a waste of energy.

The truth is - Donnel’s story is all too common. Communities of color and low-income people across America are more likely to live in older, less efficient buildings or buildings with broken heating and cooling. This results in a higher energy burden, which is the percentage of income spent on energy bills.

An air source heat pump installation that is also a training session for participants in BlocPower's Civilian Climate Corps

According to the U.S. Dept of Energy’s Information Administration, around 1 in 3 American households face challenges in paying for electricity bills. Today, it is very clear that many Americans are also staring down extreme price volatility to heat their homes. 

Electrification of homes and vehicles offers the best path to avoid spiking and volatile energy bills. 

Households using gas for heat should expect to pay $161 more than last year over the heating season, and more than $500 more for those using propane and fuel oil.

Households with electric heat pumps can only expect to pay $21 more – just 13% of the cost increase gas heated homes will face.

The government also has a key role to play to ensure that the benefits of all electric buildings are available to all Americans. Rebates can help reduce the upfront costs of building owners converting their homes to all electric, so that it’s more affordable. Rebates can also help leverage government money with private sector capital. 

Today, BlocPower raises at least five private dollars to finance electrification projects for every government dollar in our partnership with private lenders. In addition, expanding lending through the Department of Energy’s Loan Program Office could provide significant new capital to grow electrification across the U.S. 

A resident enjoying the comfort and convenience offered by her air source heat pump

Electrification not only saves money, it makes buildings healthier and more comfortable to live in, worship in, and learn in. Numerous studies have recently shown that upgrading school and daycare facilities improves young peoples’ lives and performance. 

Gas-powered water heaters and furnaces, which still power the majority of our schools, produce PM2.5 (or fine particles that remain suspended longer in the air) contribute to ambient air pollution. A 2020 MIT study found that buildings are now the leading source of early deaths from PM2.5 and ozone pollution generated from all sectors. 

BlocPower has installed heat pumps in schools and daycare facilities. We can expand these efforts. New York City, for example, is the largest school system in the country and is in dire need of improvements to ventilation systems, whether to combat COVID, air pollution or climate change.  

Air source heat pumps not only remove fossil fuel combustion in outdoor air, they have air filtration systems that improve air quality indoors as well, reducing cumulative health risks already adversely harming young people of color, like asthma.

An HVAC installation crew, trained in the Civilian Climate Corps, guide the outdoor unit of a heat pump safely onto the roof of a church in Jamaica, Queens in New York

BlocPower is not only working to eliminate the waste of energy in buildings. We also are solving for the waste of human potential. 

With support from the American Rescue Plan and in partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office, BlocPower has trained over 1,000 individuals from communities adversely impacted by gun violence in green jobs, like heat pump installation and training in other energy efficiency measures.

Our Civilian Climate Corps develops career opportunities for participants from historically left out environmental justice communities and fossil fuel industries. We provide wraparound career and support services to ensure success. This model is replicable across the country. 

Across New York City, our skilled workers are now employed with HVAC companies, air quality monitoring startups and rooftop solar installers. 

Civilian Climate Corps member, Jevon, in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn

One worker, Jevon from Brooklyn, recently told us:

“Before I started working at BlocPower, I was freelancing and doing whatever I could do to make a dollar. When I heard about BlocPower, I tried them out. You get hands-on training. They give you a chance, they believe in you.”

The climate crisis requires us to think big and act fast. Imagine what this program would look like in every city across the country. America should lead the world in workforce to convert the world’s buildings to renewable electricity. We can scale BlocPower’s Civilian Climate Corps rapidly and ensure good, green jobs are available to everyone, and especially frontline workers.

Thank you.