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Making A Difference: Trying To Help

10/2/2011 10:31:31 AM

Tags: non-profits, economic slump, starting a small business, , Jeff Chaney

Jeff with his one kilowatt array 

I have really tried to postpone writing this article, but can wait no longer. My level of frustration is immeasurable. Sometimes, it seems that the harder one strives to help others, the more that help is avoided. My feelings may be warranted, or could very well be misguided. I am highly disappointed.

Approximately one year ago, I contacted the local chapter of Habitat For Humanity, representing the 1% Foundation. The purpose was to donate our services toward the energy use reduction of these homes, with the associated cost savings, and energy education of this segment of homeowners. It seemed to me that if we could measurably reduce ongoing energy costs for these homes, the lesser the probability that residents would experience later financial trouble. Maybe I was wrong, but I viewed this as a no-brainer!

The idea seemed a sure hit. We would consult with local chapters to assess the locations of the homes, optimizing orientation and passive solar gains (which are no cost), where possible. We would explore small, less expensive changes like additional insulation, energy efficient lighting, and appliances. We would integrate homeowner energy education related to usage savings in general, and phantom loads in particular. Lastly, we would work with anyone to explore utilization of grant funds to apply toward the integration of small solar water heating and/or electric generation systems in these homes.

The first response I received was that presently there was no executive director. A new e.d. would be taking the helm shortly. After about two months, I contacted the new director and presented my ideas. They appeared excited and I was informed that they had one more conventional build, then wished to change direction toward my philosophy. I was invited to the next board meeting. In the interim, I prepared a powerpoint presentation to illustrate my ideas. The next board meeting was postponed, and I was never contacted further. It is my belief that this director is no longer with the local organization.

In another example, I attempted to rally support for a community-wide renewable energy exposition involving local city officials, chamber of commerce, and community college. The college has just initiated an installation certification class in renewable energy, and will soon begin a degree program geared toward “green” concepts. I assumed these entities would welcome this idea, to showcase what is happening in this realm in the community. I also proposed a program, similar to one in Berea, Ky., that uses a self guided auto tour to spotlight local residences and businesses that use alternative energy. These events would occupy a three day weekend, and I believe would be a huge regional event. A gentleman city official helped me make some initial contacts, but since I made the initial inquiries, I have received no responses. I have no experience organizing such events, which is why I tried to take my ideas to persons better versed in these matters.

If you listen to what the politicians are saying, they are doing everything humanly possible to help small businesses pull us out of the economic slump. Let’s give serious thought to this strategy. For thirty years, all I have heard is that ninety percent of all small business fails in the first year. I have a problem, and my solution includes a ninety percent failure rate! But that is not the worst part.

When I decided to start a renewable energy company, I envisioned a full service firm, from planning and design to the actual installation, a turn-key project. I ventured to the local city business license office to obtain a license. I was informed that to license this firm, I needed a contractor’s license in hand. I contacted a local successful unlimited licensed contractor with million-dollar project experience with this obstacle, he made a phone call to a city official and was informed that I did not need a contractor’s license. Eventually, I solved this dilemma by becoming a strictly consulting firm. Everyone out there wants to help you. Sure, they do! Examples such as these are no way to repair the mortally wounded economy.

It should now be clear why I am so discouraged! But if I view the task at hand, that would be to help common folks, of which I am one, to live a better life. I eventually concluded that the best way to accomplish this would be to write and publish the series of articles, Living Offgrid Affordably, and Making A Difference. If these articles can help one family, it will have been well worth the effort! Please remember to recycle any and everything, when possible.

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