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ACO News: Association Leaders Learn from Peers and IRA Experts at ACCA 2023

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Fighting for Quality Contractors in IRA Implementation 

There’s no better argument for the importance of strong state and local contracting associations than the coming state-by-state implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) homeowner rebate programs and contractor training grants.  

The IRA’s $45 billion in tax credits and rebates have the potential to transform the residential HVAC market. But will state energy offices partner with quality contractors to deliver training and incentives for more comprehensive system overhauls? Or will unions hijack these funds to train legions of box swappers to steal away your customers with promises of “free heat pumps” with no attention to quality installation? 

That question was top of mind as 22 board and staff members from 11 Allied Contracting Organizations (ACOs) serving 18 states gathered at ACCA 2023 in New Orleans. Two leading experts on the IRA discussed the critical role that state associations can play in helping to shape their state’s program implementation and educating member contractors about these opportunities.  

Maddie Koewler from the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) expressed that her member states are eager to partner with ACOs to ensure that consumers get the quality installation they deserve. She provided attendees with an inside look at implementation plans for the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act (HEEHRA) and Homeowner Managing Energy Savings (HOMES) programs. Many details remain up in the air pending guidance from DOE, but Ms. Koewler offered to follow up with a virtual meeting and listening session for ACOs as more details emerge.  

Cynthia Adams of Pearl Certification painted a picture of the broader opportunity, citing the game-changing statistic that 23 percent of homeowners are now considering proactive HVAC upgrades rather than waiting for a breakdown. She sought to assuage concerns about program details like utility bill tracking, income qualification, and point-of-sale rebates, noting that utility aggregators and solar contractors have overcome these obstacles for a decade. It’s anticipated that DOE and third parties like Pearl will develop solutions for IRA programs as well. 

Both experts discussed how some states may weave together IRA rebates, utility programs, low-income heating assistance, and state funds to create unique opportunities for no- or low-cost upgrades that look very different from each program in isolation. 

Peer Exchange on Association Programs and Services 

The second half of the Association Leadership Workshop was a facilitated exchange on association programs and services driven by a survey conducted in advance. Government affairs and advocacy rose to the top as a most-valued association program. Some ACOs don’t do this at all, so several associations with outstanding government affairs programs discussed how to grow and fund these efforts. 

For education and training, the group really honed in on apprenticeship programs – how to start, maintain, and fund them. There was also discussion of some of the legal and regulatory factors that can affect a program. 

When it comes to events and networking, attendees got excited about discussing ideas beyond traditional golf tournaments, including a fishing tournament, a family-friendly barbeque cookoff, a chili cookoff for associate members, a bottle shop raffle, a “pour off” and poker tournament, sporting clay shoots, and baseball and hockey nights. Perhaps most inspiring was TACCA Abilene’s “Heat the Town” event, where contractors and inspectors fan out across town providing free repairs to needy families. 

The survey is still open, and we’ll reconvene virtually to discuss how ACO boards can strategically prioritize potential programs. You’ll find the survey link and workshop materials in the ACO Community. Email to be added.

Posted In: ACCA Now, Print Edition

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