Finding new ways to support manufactured home park residents

The Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) work to reduce energy use and increase safety in manufactured home parks was honored this spring at our 2022 Environmental Initiative Awards. Our Awards team wanted to catch up with the 2022 winners, so Joel Haskard, CERTs co-director, and I recently chatted at our office about what the team has been up to.  

The Saving Energy in Manufactured Home Parks program was recognized in May 2022 for its innovative approach connecting energy savings materials and programs within 20+ manufactured home communities. Has this work continued? What is new in the program?  

This year, we will probably work with another 20+ manufactured home parks, some of them the same parks again, and some new parks that we’ve never worked with before. We’ve gotten some funding support to install on-site small solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at some of these parks. I’m really excited about it. We’re also looking to see how people can subscribe to a community solar garden that is outside of Xcel Energy’s service territory without paying a premium to have it help reduce their energy bills. We’re piloting that with some municipal utilities and cooperatives.  

In addition to saving money on energy bills, what other benefits do energy saving improvements have for families and the value of their homes?  

I think what’s really nice about this program is that it reduces energy costs. But it also can and should make the home more comfortable to live in. Safer to live in potentially. It can increase the value of the home sometimes, especially if we’re doing larger work underneath the belly of the home or replacing appliances. It’s kind of a win, win, win. Some of the folks are really excited about climate mitigation, but they never thought that they could be part of that effort.  

Your work with the “Growing Up Healthy” initiative sounds pretty exciting! Can you share a bit more about how this work might connect with or build upon your energy savings campaigns in manufactured housing communities?  

I’m a huge fan of Growing Up Healthy. I’m very proud because I suggested (Growing Up Healthy) apply to get help obtaining funding through the Justice 40 Initiative. They did, and they are part of the first cohort of the Justice 40 Accelerator Program. CERTs is in the second cohort, so we are joining up with Growing Up Healthy for this work.  

Growing Up Healthy is primarily located in the Northfield and Faribault area of southeast Minnesota. The organization has amazing connections with a lot of different communities, but especially with the Latino community. In my opinion, they have really excelled in the work they’re doing with manufactured home parks. They are a trusted partner, have strong translation abilities, and have been wonderful to work with in a handful of manufactured home parks.  

What opportunities do you anticipate for this work as a result of the recently signed Inflation Reduction Act 

I think the Inflation Reduction Act is going to provide folks with a wealth of opportunities on both energy efficiency upgrades for their homes and renewable energy installation. I’m very excited about air source heat pumps and some of the solar rebates since we’re working on solar projects with manufactured home parks. I see 2023 as being a very busy, very exciting time. There are even rebates for used electric vehicles if you’re underneath a certain income qualification.  

What volunteer or financial donation opportunities exist for people who are interested in supporting the CERTs program?  

I encourage people to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter. We have a clean energy job board, that we update weekly. If you know somebody looking for a job in the clean energy sector, I think we’re a fantastic resource for that. And on the CERTs website, there is a donate button if people are so inclined.  

Would you like us to know that we haven’t talked about yet?  

Thanks to our (Environmental Initiative) Award, the Weather Channel called me to do a live interview about our manufactured home parks work as part of their climate subject area. That was cool. The first time they wanted me to do this, they stopped the countdown (before we went live) and said, “Joel, I’m afraid we’re going to have to reschedule because there’s catastrophic flooding happening in the southeastern United States right now. So, we can’t do the climate segment with you right now.” 

Would you encourage other organizations to apply for an Environmental Initiative Award? If so, why? What benefits have you experienced?  

I would certainly encourage other organizations to apply for an Environmental Initiative Award. It is very exciting and thrilling to have your peers celebrating you for what you’ve done. There were all kinds of really interesting and wonderful people doing amazing work attending the Awards ceremony and being in that space gives you an opportunity to network with them.  

Nominations for the 2023 Environmental Initiative Awards will open on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. The Environmental Initiative Awards recognizes those working in partnership at the nexus of a healthy environment, a prosperous economy, and an equitable society.