Contractors at construction site

This Santa Clara County Company Pays Contractors to Go Green (Yes, Really!)

Innovation is a crucial part of progress, which is why Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) built a unique program for contractors as part of their efforts to electrify homes in California. SVCE, formed by 13 local jurisdictions in Santa Clara County, serves 270,000+ commercial and residential customers. SVCE’s mission is two-fold: provide clean, carbon-free electricity to customers and electrify the built environment and transportation sector to reduce emissions.

In March 2020, the SVCE team saw firsthand how hard the pandemic affected the building trade and decided to devise a solution for the contractors in their area.

“Our Board approved this education program focused on building electrification, with stipends to support the contractor community struck by all the COVID slowdowns at the time,” says Don Bray, Director of Energy Services and Community Relations for SVCE.

That idea morphed into FutureFit Fundamentals, a full-scale program to equip contractors with the awareness, knowledge, and funding they need to implement eco-friendly solutions in their communities. The team, which included SVCE staff, consultants, and building industry professionals, built an entirely online self-paced course that’s divided into five sections:

  • Electrification 101
  • All electric heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC)
  • Heat pump water heaters
  • Miscellaneous all-electric home appliances, like leaf blowers and induction cooktops
  • Solar and battery storage

After completion of the course, which takes about five hours, SVCE offers Santa Clara County contractors a $500 stipend and possible eligibility for an installation incentive of up to $5,000.

“The goal is to make contractors conversant in new all-electric building technologies,” Don says. “We hear from our residential customers that they are now asking contractors about these technologies, and some are more knowledgeable than others. We want all contractors to be ready to have these conversations on how all-electric systems can benefit customers.”

One way the course does this is by describing California’s trajectory towards adopting building codes with all electric technologies. Providing contractors with that background helps encourage them to become familiar with these new technologies so that they can grow and scale their business as the market changes in the coming years.

After a pilot program last year, SVCE launched the course in March, and they have already seen more than 50 contractors complete the course. But the interest in the class is more far-reaching: there are 145 active applications to the program, with plenty more expected to roll in throughout the year.

Not only does every contractor who completes the course receive a $500 stipend, but some contractors within SVCE’s service territory are also eligible for a $5,000 stipend to implement these technologies in their own homes or business. Contractors can combine the cost of these technologies up to $5,000. (i.e., an induction cooktop is $2,000, a Window Heat Pump HVAC is $1,200, an in-Wall Electric Fireplace is $500, etc.)

“We understand how important contractors are and how important their time is,” says SVCE’s Jessica Cornejo, Program Specialist. “That’s why we are paying contractors to take this course.”

Though contractors receive a $500 stipend for taking the course, SVCE also benefits from the FutureFit Fundamentals program.

“This is one of those true win-win situations,” says Beth Trenchard, SVCE’s interim communications manager. “Contractors have an opportunity to learn about new all-electric technologies and systems that help can grow their business in a rapidly-changing market. And at the same time, it’s an opportunity for Silicon Valley Clean Energy to support their customer base and the business community by providing relevant education.”

Not only is this program a benefit for SVCE, the contractors, and the residents in the area — it’s also a benefit for the planet. The impact of energy-efficient technologies like heat pumps and induction cooktops expands far beyond just California. It plays a role in helping ensure the health and safety of our planet.