HDF Convenes Wargame to Uncover a Path to Greater Energy Efficiency for Connecticut Homeowners

HARTFORD, CT — Over 80 leaders from government agencies, businesses, and nonprofit organizations gathered on March 6th and 7th on the Club Level at Rentschler Field for an event designed to uncover new ways to radically increase Connecticut homeowners’ adoption of energy efficiency measures. The Housing Development Fund (HDF) organized the event with support and a unique wargame approach provided by Booz Allen Hamilton. Their motivation was clear: action on energy efficiency is urgently needed as over 300,000 low- and moderate-income homeowners struggle to heat and power their homes each year.

The first day kicked off with rousing words of encouragement from Benjamin Barnes, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management for the State of Connecticut and Daniel Esty, the Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Both encouraged participants to be bold, and work creatively on a complex set of problems ranging from how to effectively market the benefits of energy efficiency and influence consumer thinking about energy use to how financing can be offered in appealing and accessible ways so that consumers interested in making these kinds of home improvements can do so more easily and affordably.

Their belief in this event was evident as both officials took part in the simulation through a large portion of the first day. Connecticut’s state government demonstrated support for increasing energy efficiency through the participation of over a dozen employees from eight different state agencies and quasi-governmental agencies, including the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA), the Connecticut Department of Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA). Few participants in the two-day event had seen such a broad cross-section of stakeholders represented in one working group. The wargame structure mixed participants up into six teams representing State Government, Energy Suppliers, Nonprofit Agencies, Home Energy Contractors, Financial Institutions, and Residents (Homeowners and Renters).

The goal of each team was to design programs that could unlock large-scale action. With sunlight pouring through floor-to-ceiling windows, participants communicated through the web and in-person to negotiate commitments from other teams needed to make their programs work. Once a structure was in place, teams pitched their programs to the “Residents” team to test the appeal their ideas had with the group tasked with representing the public. Behind the scenes, organizers used economic models to calculate the impact of various programs and encouraged participants to both think big and draw on best practices from efforts in other states, as well as their own experience as practitioners. Teams received guidance from facilitators provided by both Booz Allen Hamilton and NeighborWorks America, a national housing organization that provided grant funding to support this unique event.

By the end of the second day, participants had envisioned new collaborative approaches to unlock capital and provide low-interest loans for energy efficiency projects. Teams also identified complex issues that require attention including workforce training and the creation of clearer energy efficiency rating systems for resident buildings. HDF and Booz Allen closed out the second day by thanking the remarkable group for their time, creativity, and hard work, and they offered up a promise – that the simulation’s outcomes and insights would be documented through a report to be published this spring. HDF has also committed to provide the group that gathered last week and other stakeholders an opportunity to participate in working groups and to gather again this fall.

HDF aims to keep this varied set of leaders connected and interacting to help progress on energy efficiency for residential buildings in Connecticut develop for the benefit of homeowners struggling with high energy bills. About the Housing Development Fund– HDF is a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and HUD-Approved Counseling and Lending Agency established 1989 as a nonprofit organization to finance the development of affordable housing. Since its inception, HDF has been creating affordable housing solutions for low- to moderate-income households in the high cost markets of southwestern Connecticut. In that time, it has grown to a loan fund with $45.7 million in assets that encompasses lending programs for pre-development, acquisition, rehabilitation, new construction, and permanent financing. Other projects have included affordable family housing, senior housing, special needs housing and supportive housing. In addition to its financing resources and functions, HDF provides homebuyers’ education and one-on-one counseling to help families qualify for special mortgage financing programs. HDF also provides foreclosure prevention services through monthly clinics and individual counseling.