“Working for DWEJ definitely came as an answer to my prayer request. This life-changing experience has impacted my life, as well as my family’s lives in a way that I would have never imagined. It manifested as a source of restoration for my sense of dignity and integrity, which I had been longing for. When I talk about what I do for a living, it gives me a sense of pride that is 00000rewarding and gratifying. Entering into the field that DWEJ works in definitely represented a new territory for me, and therefore a challenge. I credit my success within this company, first to God’s grace. Second, to the support of a great team of qualified colleagues that care about what they do.”
– Carla King, Energy Efficiency Specialist and graduate of DWEJ’s weatherization training program
“With the collaboration of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice (DWEJ) and Operation Able, I enrolled in the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and graduated with honors. The impact DWEJ has made on my life and career has been life-changing. Midway through my career, DWEJ gave me an opportunity to work with people again, and change their lives! DWEJ is an awesome organization to be a part of. Its mission has made and is still making a positive impact in the city of Detroit. DWEJ is all about making sure people live in a healthy and safe community. My experience has been a blessing and I am grateful. I’m surrounded by caring, intelligent, and remarkable people, who want to make a difference in the World for ALL people. I am proud to be one of their team members.”
– Anetha Walker, Energy Efficiency Specialist and graduate of DWEJ’s weatherization training program
What is the Energy Efficiency Assistance Program?
DWEJ’s Energy Efficiency Assistance (EEA) Program was born out of our Future Build Construction Group. We hired three graduates from the Future Build weatherization workforce training program in May, 2017 to work on the EEA program. We are happy to say that Anetha and Carla, two of our success stories, still work with us to this day.
Since 2008, Michigan utility companies have been required by law to create Energy Efficiency Assistance programs to help meet state energy standards. DTE Energy, Detroit’s largest electric utility, launched its EEA program in 2009, with a portion devoted to helping low-income residents who often pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income on their energy bills.
DTE’s early attempts included supplementing federal weatherization funding to specialized agencies, but this proved insufficient in supporting low-income communities. Like many utilities, DTE struggled to attract participants for their low-income energy efficiency programs, due in part to language barriers, lack of information, negative past experiences with utility shutoffs, and the complex paperwork required to enroll. To remedy this issue, they created partnerships with more than 30 agencies and organizations that served and understood the needs and concerns of low-income residents. DWEJ is one of those partner organizations.
In 2014, DTE added the Supporting Energy Efficiency in Detroit (SEED) Homes program to its EEA program as a way to expand their energy efficiency services by combining them with existing bill assistance benefits. DTE supplemented its partner organizations’ existing resources with its own funds generated from utility ratepayer surcharges, allowing its partners to expand their services to include energy efficiency improvements. In exchange, the partner organizations helped DTE increase program participation and in just the first year, reduced greenhouse gas emissions by an amount comparable to the annual energy-related emissions of more than 1,000 homes.
By doing our part in this large-scale project, we not only help DTE honor its mandate to meet Michigan’s energy efficiency standards, we help our low-income residents reduce their costs and reduce their emissions. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved. On a more personal level, by making it possible for eligible participants to replace some of their old household appliances with newer, more energy efficient ones, we change lives in our community for the better. Through this work, DWEJ can address and improve household energy costs and efficiency.
Day-to-Day Work in the EEA Program
We are proud of the work we do, but none of it would be possible without our devoted staff: Lynette Cobb, Carla King, and Anetha Walker.
Every day, our Energy Efficiency Specialists, Carla and Anetha, receive calls from local DTE Energy customers looking to benefit from the free services the EEA program offers. Their role is to educate callers on cost savings if they replaced some of their older household appliances (refrigerators, furnaces and water heaters, as well as incandescent light bulbs) with new energy efficient models. They then perform an assessment of each customer’s annual income to determine if they qualify for the DTE EEA Program. Once the assessment is complete and the customers have demonstrated their eligibility, Carla and Anetha create customer cases for new appliance installations.
Lynette Cobb, our EEA Program Administrator, then works with private contractors and delivery people to make sure the approved customers get their new appliances delivered and installed. Anetha and Carla also go into homes to help with the installation of LED light bulbs. Participants are educated about the EEA program, energy efficiency measures, the equipment being installed and their emissions, and the positive impact this will have on their energy bills. We have experienced strong customer satisfaction as a result of our hard work and our customers are very happy with the service they receive from us!
Positive Impacts of the Energy Efficiency Assistance Program
I had a beautiful experience with you guys. I was so blessed that I received that call and that you guys were able to provide me with a new furnace. I cannot express the impact this overall experience has had on me, it was a miracle.”– Alberta Powers, Detroit resident (Read her story.)
“This program is awesome. I’m a senior who was in desperate need of a furnace which was given to me. I could not have afforded to buy one. This program is needed very much and I appreciate being a recipient. Thank you so much.”– Renee Henderson, Detroit resident
By helping families lower the burden of their high energy costs through our EEA program, we have helped improve:
- Energy bills: Program participants enjoy energy cost savings
- Quality of life: They develop more confidence in their ability to pay bills and avoid power shutoffs
- Homes: By undergoing energy upgrades, participants’ homes become more comfortable and safer to live in
- Air quality: Energy is saved and less pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere by polluting and expensive power plants. This also reduces the need to build new power plants
- Public health: By improving air quality, Detroit residents run a lower risk of suffering from four of the leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, heart disease, and stroke, which are often directly associated with the presence of these pollutants in our atmosphere
- Reliability: Reduced energy use also puts less strain on our vital electricity infrastructure. This is particularly important, given the amount of energy grid reliability issues we have in Michigan.
Jobs like the ones held by Carla, Anetha and Lynette are just a few of the tens of thousands created in Michigan by the energy efficiency industry. These jobs make up two thirds of Michigan’s clean energy jobs. This employment sector includes jobs like those in our EEA program, as well as jobs related to retrofitting ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in schools, insulating homes, and manufacturing ENERGY STAR-rated appliances.