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Portland City Council approves grant amendment to expand PCEF Heat Response Program, announce partners

News Article
Over the next five years, new community distribution partners aim to install 15,000 energy-efficient cooling units in the homes of heat-vulnerable Portlanders.

Today the Portland City Council unanimously approved a grant amendment funding the services of Community Distribution Partners for the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund (PCEF) Heat Response program. This deployment approach ensures more vulnerable low-income Portlanders can stay cool during future summer heat emergencies.

Worst-case climate modeling for the Pacific Northwest indicates that extreme heat events, much like that of June 2021, will only increase as climate change worsens. The newly approved grant amendment officially launches the PCEF Heat Response Program, which will distribute 15,000 heat-pump/cooling units to PCEF priority populations, focusing on Portlanders with the greatest heat-related risk.

“Portlanders need us to take accelerated, aggressive climate action rooted in racial and economic justice,” said Commissioner Carmen Rubio. “This grant does that, and it will save lives and protect people from the effects of climate change. I am confident that the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund will execute this grant as it has all of its work: with accountability, transparency, responsibility, and urgency.”

Following unanimous City Council action in January 2022, Earth Advantage Inc. was awarded an initial grant to serve the role of Equipment Purchasing Partner (EPP) and has been building the infrastructure — including placing orders for energy efficient cooling equipment — for the PCEF Heat Response Program.  Earlier this year, Earth Advantage ordered all of the units needed for the first year of installations. The majority of those units are portable and provide dual heating and cooling, allowing for easier distribution and greater flexibility.

2 drawings of portable and in-window heat pump and cooling units.
PCEF Heat Response Program partner Earth Advantage coordinated the purchase of portable heat pump units and in-window air conditioner units for the first distribution to vulnerable low-income Portlanders in advance of extreme heat days this summer.

Earth Advantage will now facilitate distribution of the units with the help of seven new community distribution partners (CDPs). Distribution is scheduled to begin this summer. PCEF recognizes that there will be more demand than available units, especially in this first season of distribution. As the Heat Response Program’s EPP, Earth Advantage’s scope includes equipment selection, registration, and logistics management of the cooling-units.

“We’re excited to begin working with the CDPs on training and logistics to install the first phase of heat pump/cooling units to Portland communities most at risk from heat events,” said Earth Advantage’s Climate Justice Program Manager Pilar Calderin. “We see our role as a partnership with PCEF and the CDPs to fulfill this critical mission in our city.”

CDPs will identify eligible households, schedule installation of the cooling units, and transport and install the units in people’s homes. The CDP application process sorted applicants into two types of organizations: housing providers, and non-housing community-based organizations (CBOs). Among other criteria, applicants were selected based on their service to priority communities in Portland.  Housing providers will serve those households in the properties they manage, and CBOs will serve members of the broader community within their service area. The seven initial community-distribution partners are:

 Housing provider category:

Non-housing community-based organization category:

The funding for the CDP role will be managed by Earth Advantage, who will compensate the CDPs based on the successful installation of units and provision of services.

The total distribution capacity for this initial cohort of CDPs is approximately 7,800 cooling units. Beginning in year two of the program, PCEF staff and Earth Advantage will engage with additional housing providers and community-based organizations to provide the opportunity to distribute units.  

The budget amendment allocates $6.3 million over five years for the installation services of the CDPs and energy efficiency and support services for the Heat Response Program. The program aims to install 15,000 efficient cooling devices into the homes of vulnerable low-income Portlanders during the next five years.