Topic Resources

Tools Used
Initiated By
  • Ashland's municipal government
  • Bonneville Power Administration
  • C.P. National Gas Company
  • Oregon Department of Energy
  • Oregon Municipal Electric and Conservation Agency (composed of Ashland and six other Oregon municipal utilities)
  • Valley of the Rogue Bank
  • 65,805 MWh of energy and 1aMW of capacity saved between 1980 and 1994
  • 290,000 gallons of water saved daily in the first year
  • 2,378 households undertaking weatherization projects
  • 69 local contractors participating in energy efficient new home construction
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An energy analyst from the City's Conservation Department performs a blower door test to measure air leakage during a home visit.

Lawn signs mark builders' participation in the Super Good Cents New Homes program.

Resource Conservation in Ashland, Oregon

The City of Ashland runs a range of conservation incentive programs aimed primarily at promoting energy efficiency but also encompassing water conservation, regional air quality, recycling and composting, and land-use planning. The programs are designed to increase citizens' awareness of and access to conservation measures for new construction and retrofit, including residential weatherization, replacement of toilets and showerheads, composting, incentives for builders, and land-use ordinances.


The City of Ashland, Oregon, a small American community with a population of about 17,500, began its conservation programs in 1980 with policies addressing land use. The first energy efficiency programs were implemented in 1982, and the water conservation programs were added in 1992.

Three key factors contributed to the development of the programs: strong leadership, a strong sense of community, and the availability of external support. Dick Wanderscheid joined the City's Planning Division in 1979. Wanderscheid, together with other City officials, promoted the need to develop the community in harmony with its resources and environment. These leaders were able to harness the energy of the community to develop and nurture a strong conservation ethic in Ashland. Wanderscheid became Manager of the Conservation Division upon its creation in 1982, and has continued to inspire and direct Ashland's conservation activities.

His efforts received a substantial boost in 1982, when Ashland became a customer of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the region's wholesale power supplier. Under the 1980 Pacific Northwest Electric Power Plant and Conservation Act, BPA was mandated to invest in energy-efficiency measures for its customers. Accordingly, they developed and sponsored an array of demand-side management (DSM) programs, which Ashland was able to draw on and integrate into its own conservation efforts.

In 1992, the City also submitted a ten-year plan for energy conservation to BPA, calling for investments of $10.7 million and a projected energy savings of 22,704 MWh. However, this plan never received the required backing from BPA.

Setting Objectives

No quantified objectives were set except for one. When the water conservation program began in 1992, a goal of 500,000 gallons of water saved per day was set.

Getting Informed

The bulk of Ashland's early energy conservation initiatives were region-wide programs sponsored by BPA rather than independent municipal efforts. BPA designed the programs and conducted the requisite background research, and Ashland implemented the programs as designed.

Delivering the Program

Ashland's conservation efforts began in 1980 with the passing of land use ordinances addressing energy-efficient design and resource-conscious land use. These policies granted bonuses to developers for building energy efficient housing (Financial Incentives and Disincentives), set out energy performance standards for new construction, allowed increased density building, and protected a landowner's rights to a certain amount of sunlight falling on his or her property.

The City aggressively pursued the opportunities presented by BPA, adding new programs as they became available and expanding their efforts beyond BPA-sponsored programs and into other resource areas.

Energy Efficiency Programs

In 1982, Ashland implemented BPA's Street and Area Lighting Program, which replaced streetlights with efficient high-pressure sodium lamps, and the Residential Weatherization Program. Under the latter initiative, the City offered free residential energy audits (Home Visits) to identify necessary weatherization measures, including insulation, window replacements, water heater blankets, and caulking and weatherstripping. The audits lasted 1-3 hours, and were conducted by city personnel who were trained and certified to work in BPA's programs. Participants were then offered cash grants covering up to 60% of the total installation costs for the measures identified in the audits, or up to 100% for low-income residents (Financial Incentives and Disincentives). As for all of the BPA-sponsored programs, the incentive levels were set by BPA based on regional cost-effectiveness in comparison to the cost of adding additional electricity generating capacity. A loan program was available to fund the balance of the installation costs, provided in cooperation with the Valley of the Rogue Bank. In 1991, BPA added the Energy Smart Design Program, a similar program of free energy audits and cash grants for commercial building owners.

Although BPA's Residential Weatherization Program focused exclusively on electricity, Ashland sought out support from other partners in order to expand its efforts to include alternative heating fuels. C.P. National Gas Company, Ashland's natural gas supplier, performed free energy audits for gas-heated homes and provided financial assistance for the weatherization projects. The City also provided energy audits for homes heated with wood stoves, and the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) helped finance weatherization measures for those homes as well as ones heated with oil, propane, butane and kerosene.

Residential customers were also eligible for cash rebates for upgrading to energy-efficient water heaters (Financial Incentives and Disincentives). For customers considering heating system changes, the City performed heat loss and sizing calculations and operational cost comparisons. Personal loans from the Valley of the Rogue Bank were available for completing these heating system upgrades (Overcoming Specific Barriers).

The Super Good Cents New Homes project, implemented in 1985, provided financial incentives for builders to exceed the energy efficiency standards of the Oregon Building Code for new residential construction projects (Financial Incentives and Disincentives). Participating homes were certified, which enhanced their market value in Ashland's conservation-oriented market, and a sign with the program's logo was placed on the lawn to mark participation in the program (Norm Appeals). The City also offered technical assistance to builders for meeting the program's standards.

Water Conservation, Air Quality, and Recycling Programs

Ashland's conservation initiative later evolved to include policies and programs for water conservation, air quality, recycling, and composting. The City's energy efficiency efforts were used as a model for these later additions, and Citizen's Advisory Committees were formed in order to allow the community to participate in designing the conservation programs. The water conservation committee was formed by advertising for volunteers, while committees on air quality, recycling, and transportation were appointed by the mayor and City Council.

Residential customers were eligible for free water audits involving leak detection and examination of toilets and showerheads. The audits lasted from 0.5-1.5 hours and were conducted by the City's water analyst, who was trained by visiting utilities in California. American Waterworks provided additional training. The water conservation program also involved free showerhead replacement, rebates for toilet replacement, and restructuring of water rates to an inverted block structure in which rates increased with higher usage (Financial Incentives and Disincentives).

The air quality improvement program offered low-interest loans and cash rewards for weatherization and replacement of wood stoves. The City passed ordinances pertaining to air quality, which required that stoves be certified as clean-burning and regulated what can be burned and the allowable thickness of smoke.

A recycling center was established to coordinate Ashland's recycling activities. The center also sponsored seminars on composting and offered attendees rebates on composting equipment. The State's Department of Environmental Quality sponsored vermiculture demonstrations in participating schools. The school district also hired a Resource Conservation Manager who was responsible for energy and water conservation within the schools.

Marketing the Programs

The City used a battery of marketing techniques to promote the conservation programs, focussing on saving energy and money and increasing comfort in the home. The energy audits and installation of retrofit measures were advertised through inserts in electricity bills, sent out in the fall when people were more likely to be thinking about heating. This method of advertising ensured that nearly every household in the city was reached. The inserts provided enough basic information about the programs and the savings achievable to entice people to call the City for more information, but were kept simple to ensure that people would actually read them. The City also advertised in the home improvement supplement of the local paper and during radio broadcasts of local interest such as high school football games, made presentations to local groups, and aired videos on community access television (Mass Media). The Super Good Cents program was also promoted through a booth at the county homebuilders show.

By far the most effective marketing tool for the programs was word of mouth (Word of Mouth). Although there were no formalized means of encouraging participants to share information about the programs, the City expected that participants would tell their friends and neighbours about the financial savings they achieved. City personnel were also instrumental in spreading information by word-of-mouth. Building inspectors and others in the Planning and Building Departments were aware of programs such as Super Good Cents and helped to target new construction by ensuring builders were aware of them. Certified contractors encouraged their prospective clients to contact the City to learn about options available to them for weatherization measures such as insulation and new windows.

Financing the Program

Between 1980 and 1994, BPA provided a total of $5,120,626 for energy efficiency programs. As shown in the table below, roughly 90% of this funding went to residential programs, particularly the weatherization program. The City of Ashland provided approximately $100,000 annually, derived from municipal electricity revenues.

Cost Overview by Program (US Dollars)

  Total Costs 1980-1994
Residential Weatherization $3,596,162
Super Good Cents Homes $994,740
Appliance Efficiency $10,186
Showerheads and Faucet Aerators $15,896
Total Residential Costs $ 4,616,984
Energy Smart Design 204,463
Street and Area Lighting 295,469
Resource Conservation Manager 3,710
Total Commercial Costs $ 503,642

After BPA failed to provide support for the proposed 1992 conservation plan, the City sought out alternate sources of capital. In 1994, it joined with 6 other municipal utilities to form the Oregon Municipal Electric and Conservation Agency (OMECA). OMECA entered into a two-year contract with BPA involving the issuing of municipal bonds, with the principal and interest paid for by BPA, to provide capital for conservation programs. This arrangement provided Ashland with approximately $410,000 in 1995 and $510,000 in 1996. After the contract expired at the end of 1996, Ashland's conservation programs were funded by the municipal utility. Despite the changes in financing over the years, the programs and services appeared largely the same on the consumer side as when they were funded by BPA.

Measuring Achievements

The City did not set quantifiable objectives for many of its conservation programs and was not required to verify savings for a higher regulatory authority. Consequently, monitoring, verification and evaluation of the programs was quite minimal, except in the case of the BPA-sponsored programs. For those programs, the City was required to file monthly tracking reports to BPA detailing the participation rates, what kinds of measures were installed in participating buildings, and the costs. The results of the Super Good Cents Homes program were verified through on-site inspections conducted jointly by BPA and City officials.


The program leaders made reports to City Council, and the success of the various programs received occasional coverage in the local media. Little direct feedback was provided to the individual participants, although they received indirect feedback through lower energy bills and increased comfort in their homes.


From 1980 to 1994, the BPA-funded energy efficiency programs generated cumulative electricity savings of nearly 65,805 MWh, resulting in cumulative capacity savings of just over 1aMW. Roughly 73% of this savings was in the residential sector. The Residential Weatherization program was responsible for annual savings of 5,046 MWh, over half of the total for the programs funded by BPA during this period. The Super Good Cents Homes program generated the second highest savings at 1,747 MWh per year. Energy Smart Design, the core program for Ashland's commercial sector, generated annual savings of 1,643 MWh.

At the end of 1994, daily water savings of 290,000 gallons had been achieved from the water conservation programs, delaying the need for an increased water supply until 2021. While this was short of the goal of 500,000 gallons saved per day, the water conservation plan had not yet been fully implemented at that time. The water conservation programs also generated estimated electricity savings of 514 MWh annually from water heating and reduced wastewater volume by 43 million gallons per year.

The economic benefits of Ashland's conservation programs extended beyond lower utility bills for ratepayers and deferred expenses such as building a new dam. Carrying out aspects of the program required labour and materials, which created economic opportunities within the community and provided a market for creative entrepreneurs.

Ashland was well recognized for its high participation levels in conservation activities, although overall participation in the programs could not be quantified due to potential for overlap between different projects. Participation was greatest in the Residential Weatherization project, with 2,378 households involved between 1982 and 1994. The program had its strongest level of activity in its first few years and leveled off after 1987. The Super Good Cents program also had a substantial impact, with nearly 1,000 building projects by 69 local contractors meeting the program's standards as of 1994. Participation in this program climbed steadily during this period, as the housing market in Ashland tended to favour SGC-certified homes. Indeed, BPA's region-wide evaluation of the Super Good Cents program indicated that a majority of consumers would consider spending up to $4000 more for a new home that had energy efficiency features. Energy Smart Design, the City's major commercial program, had 59 participants between 1991 and 1994. Other programs resulted in the replacement of 75 water heaters, almost 800 showerheads, and 1,263 streetlights. Estimated expected lifetimes were 30 years for measures taken under the Residential Weatherization and Super Good Cents programs, 16 years for measures for the commercial sector, and 10 years for appliance efficiency programs.


Dick Wanderscheid
Director of Administrative Services
Department of Community Development
City of Ashland
20 East Main St.
Ashland, OR 97520
Phone: (541) 552-2061
Fax: (541) 488-5311


The City of Ashland's conservation initiatives demonstrate what can be accomplished through community action. Strong leadership and enthusiastic participation from Ashland's progressive population have allowed the City to attain a leadership role in conservation in the Pacific Northwest region.

It would be quite difficult to replicate Ashland's conservation program in its entirety, since it is composed of a large number of smaller programs, and since the financial support and program design capabilities of BPA played a large role in the early development of the initiatives. However, individual components of the program can and have been transferred to other municipalities. The City of Ashland has provided training to some communities wishing to implement similar programs, particularly the water conservation initiatives since Ashland was the first in the region to undertake such programs.


This case study was written in 2001 by Sherry Lealess. 

Funding for the addition of this case study was generously provided by the Government of Canadas Climate Change Action Fund, Suncor, Syncrude, Enbridge Consumers Gas and TetraPak Canada.

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