Clean Energy Works Portland, Oregon

The City of Portland, Oregon Bureau of Planning and Sustainability pilot program - Clean Energy Works Portland - provides solar panel installation and energy efficiency upgrades to members of the Portland community. Clean Energy Works Portland’s primary focus is on employing workers coming from frontline populations, including people of color and women. This focus is enforced through a legally binding “Community Workforce Agreement” (CWA), requiring that of the hours worked in completion of the Program, at least 30% must have been completed by individuals that have historically been disadvantaged or underrepresented in the workforce, which includes people of color, women, and low-income individuals. Among contractors, 20% had to go to businesses owned by historically underrepresented individuals as well. By the time the pilot was completed in March 2011, 500 homes had been enrolled in the Program, almost 400 workers received paychecks who otherwise may not have had work, and people of color worked nearly 50% of the total hours. 

Funded by the federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant - which is part of the American Recovery and Investment Act - the pilot program first began in 2010. Clean Energy Works Portland worked with various stakeholders, including energy trusts, utilities, development commissions, and private companies, to agree on the CWA, which laid out the requirements for many aspects of employment, including training, benefits, local hiring requirements, and contractor standards. The legally enforceable document required that 80% of the employees hired, either by contractors or the Program itself, must be hired from the Portland Community, and 30% of employees must come from traditionally underrepresented communities. The wage paid to those workers was either 180% of the state minimum wage, or “any prevailing wage that applies,” whichever was higher.

The CWA also established a program deemed “Best Value Contracting.” To be considered for a contracting bid under the Program, contractors were required to enter a pool of applicants, which were scored on a number based on a variety of attributes. To earn points in the system, contractors can retain various hiring practices, including: “a successful track record of hiring and retaining historically disadvantaged people; having a plan for establishing sub-contracting relationships with businesses owned by people of color and women; and hiring graduates of pre-apprenticeship training programs, among other criteria.”

Building off of the pilot’s success and hiring principals, an additional $20 million was invested to expand the Program - Clean Energy Works Oregon (CEWO)/Enhabit – statewide. The CWA established by Clean Energy Works Oregon/Enhabit is very similar to the previous CWA, and still used today. Once more, at least 80% of employees hired to work on contracts under the Program must be members of the local community - meaning that they must be found within a 50-mile radius of the Project. All employees are also offered resources to continue their education and certification in the renewable energy field. Best Value Contracting was extended as well. 

Today, Enhabit continues to provide solar panel installation and energy efficiency upgrades across Oregon, and has helped 25,000 homeowners statewide, with an average 1,600 homes a year retrofitted for energy efficiency. The Project has generated over $100 million return on investment, and more than 500 new living-wage jobs have been created. Enhabit services are now available to 82% of Oregon’s population, either in the form of installation or employment. Of those working on energy upgrades, 55% of hours worked have been completed by women and people of color with this new Program.


Publication Date: June 1, 2009

Related Organizations:

  • Enhabit

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  • Best practice
  • Case study
  • Project

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