June 30, 2020 (Updated)
Frequently Asked Questions (Archived)
Pursuant to COVID-19 Order No.13, we will be updating the dates and details below to relevant Questions and Answers.
Q: How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact our Energy Efficiency programs and how long will these changes last? (NEW 6/2/2020)
The Governor of Massachusetts has declared a state of emergency and governments, schools, businesses and citizens are all taking action to limit interaction and spread of the virus. Due to this serious and quickly evolving situation, we have announced significant impacts to multiple elements of our 2020 Energy Efficiency programs. While energy reductions achieved by the energy efficiency programs help improve long-term public health, the emerging and immediate COVID-19 pandemic concerns facing our communities must take precedence.
The Program Administrators continue to closely monitor COVID-19 developments and impacts. On May 18, 2020 the Governor announced a phased approach to re-opening Massachusetts.The Program Administrators must continue to make safety the highest priority and meet all safety guidelines per the state’s direction. As each phase of the Governor’s plan is announced, we will provide updates on our changes to services.
Given updated regional and federal communications and recent guidance, the Program Administrators are pleased to announce that the process of resuming on-premise services has begun. This week, certain contractors who have completed safety training will commence on-site work that can be delivered from exterior and unoccupied spaces in the home. Please read our updated guidance on minimum safety requirements below for more details.
The Program Administrators continue to work in coordination with public health experts and officials and members of the contractor community to discuss how contractors can resume services as quickly and safely as possible both now and as the state continues to be reopened. We urge our implementation partners and contractors to take this reality into consideration in scheduling customer appointments. During this time, the Program Administrators remain committed to working with our partners and other stakeholders to develop and implement mitigation strategies (including shifting work to remote / virtual delivery mechanisms) where possible and appropriate. We also urge all partners to review list of Contractor Resources for additional information about state and federal resources available to support the business community and impacted employees during this difficult period.
Q: What health and safety guidelines are being developed? (Updated 6/30/2020)
Since the suspension of on-premise energy efficiency work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Environmental Health & Engineering, Inc., a respected health & safety consulting firm, has collaborated with several energy efficiency market actors, contractors, and health & safety specialists to identify opportunities where certain minimum health & safety guidelines will support the safe implementation of certain efficiency work completed on-premise).
Health and safety guidelines have been developed for the residential on-premise services, including those services that involve customer contact. The Program Administrators will treat these guidelines as minimum requirements to resume on-premise work. All contracted vendors and trade allies will be required to demonstrate knowledge of and compliance with these guidelines before being authorized to resume any on-premise work.
As of June 1, 2020, on-premise services that can be delivered from an exterior/unoccupied space of 1-4 unit homes can be initiated this week. All work will be done in adherence to both third-party safety protocols, as well as incremental compliance protocols agreed to between each lead vendor and the PA sponsoring each job.
Lead vendors will work closely with contractors on the completion of this work. Please note that no work shall be completed without explicit approval of the Program Administrator and lead vendor.
Additional safety protocols have been developed for C&I, Multifamily and Residential on-premise work and for on-premise work that involves customer contact. The most recent health and safety guidelines for on-premise work involving customer contact have been modified to include:
- Alternative requirements regarding Level 3 PPE.
- An addendum detailing PPE requirements for non-installation work. This addendum primarily applies to vendors completing upstream, sales, non-residential energy auditing, technical assessment (TA) or evaluation work.
- An addendum outlining alternative clothing requirements to coveralls and a new requirement to disinfect footwear or wear boot covers.
These guidelines and alternative requirements replace all previous versions of guidelines
As a component of these efforts, the Massachusetts Program Administrators are implementing a new procedure for employees of contracted vendors who test positive for the COVID-19 virus and experienced symptoms within 48 hours of visiting a customer’s home or business. Vendors are now required to inform their PA representative if an employee tests positive and tell the employee that they must fully cooperate with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), in order to enable DPH to perform any necessary contact tracing. To aid in the contact tracing effort, we have developed a customer contact log, that will need to be completed by an employee’s supervisor and will identify all customer locations an employee visited 48 hours prior to experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Trainings related to C&I and Multifamily work were made available on June 2, 2020. Trainings related to Residential and C&I work were made available on June 2, 2020. Trainings related to Residential and C&I work were made available on June 11, 2020. Updated information related to these guidelines is available here.
Q: The Governor updated his essential services list to include energy efficiency. Has the suspension of on-premise work been lifted? (Updated 6/2/2020)
No, the suspension of on-premise work has not been completely lifted however, some on-premise services can resume this week.
On April 1, 2020 at noon an updated “COVID-19 Essential Services” list, which is based on federal guidance, went into effect. While these businesses are designated as essential, they must follow social distancing protocols for workers in accordance with guidance from the Department of Public Health (DPH). The main priority for the Program Administrators remains the safety of our customers, business partners, and employees. The Governor’s updates to the list of essential services removed a barrier to the resumption of on-premise work and made clear that energy efficiency projects do not need to seek a specific exception for resuming work when safe to do so.
As of the week of June 1, 2020, the PAs have determined that on-premise services that can be delivered from an exterior/unoccupied space in the home may be resumed in a safe manner as long as the work is conducted in adherence to certain health and safety protocols.
The Program Administrators continue to work in coordination with the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), the AG’s office, Low-Income Energy Affordability Network (LEAN) and members of the contractor community as this type of work and other phases of work resume. As additional protocols, training and compliance processes are finalized, we expect that more work will be released. We will continue to update these FAQs as new or additional information and guidance is developed.
Q: What mitigation efforts are the Program Administrators considering? (Updated 6/2/2020)
In light of the partial suspension of on-premise work, the Program Administrators are looking for ways to assist contractors in order to support their continued workforce and mitigate the impact of COVID-19-related work slowdowns and stoppages. The Program Administrators have formed a Contractor Mitigation Working Group consisting of representatives from the Program Administrators (led by National Grid and Eversource), the Department of Energy Resources, the Low-Income Energy Affordability Network (LEAN), and the contractor community.
Q: Will this directly affect In-Home and On-Premise Visits?
The Massachusetts Program Administrators are temporarily suspending any non-essential work and appointments that require a contracted vendor to enter a customer’s home (“in-home”) or business (“on-premise”) or come in close, physical contact with other individuals. Certain on-premise services that can be delivered from an exterior/unoccupied space of the home can resume this week, subject to the conditions above, and will be completed in compliance with health and safety protocols.
Q: What’s the difference between a contracted vendor and a trade ally?
A contracted vendor has been fully vetted, has a signed contract with the Program Administrator or one of its contracted vendors and is working under their discretion and at their direction. A trade ally is a company working through a rebate/incentive program and operating solely under a direct contract with the customer, not a Program Administrator. Work by trade allies is performed solely at their own discretion subject to mutual agreement between them and the customer.
Q: Does this include appointments (energy assessments and work not started) already scheduled? (Updated 6/2/2020)
All on-premise work that cannot be delivered from both the exterior and unoccupied spaces must continue to be suspended. We are working to develop unique ways to work collaboratively during this time, while still following necessary safety procedures and practices and continuing to seek guidance from the Department of Public Utilities, DOER, Attorney General’s Office, LEAN, Department of Public Health, local Boards of Health, and other trusted sources.
Q: Will customers be able to move forward with any efficiency activities during this time? (Updated 6/2/2020)
During the temporary suspension of on-premise services, the Program Administrators plan to continue all other energy efficiency services, including:
- Work on an exterior/unoccupied space of the home, subject to applicable health and safety protocols, PA, and lead vendor requirements
- Online audits
- Upstream/Point-of Sale offerings
- Retail rebates
- Active Demand Response
- Trade ally driven C&I incentives
- In some limited cases, "virtual" pre- and post-inspections for C&I projects
- 0% Financing through the HEAT Loan
Q: When can we expect to resume In-Home and On-Premise Visits? (Updated 6/2/2020)
As of the week of June 1, 2020, on-premise services that can be delivered from an exterior/unoccupied space of 1-4 unit homes may resume. This vendor work will be done subject to adherence to safety and compliance protocols. Please note that no work should be completed without explicit approval of the respective Program Administrator and lead vendor. The PAs expect that additional work will be released in the coming weeks as those protocols and training and compliance processes are finalized. We will communicate an official date to re-commence additional levels of in-home and on-premise services when, based on guidance from state and local public health officials, we feel it is appropriate to do so. We will provide additional updates as we have more information.
Q: How do we handle Small C&I projects that are partially completed?
This will be handled on a case by case basis, please contact your Program Administrator.
Q: Will Program Administrators still be conducting pre-/post-inspections? (Updated 6/2/2020)
At this time, only on-premise pre-/post-inspections that are related to exterior/unoccupied spaces may be conducted. We are not conducting any other in-home or on-premise inspections. The Program Administrators are researching and discussing alternatives and will post updates here. Please reach out to your PA contacts if you have ideas or suggestions.
For C&I customers, we are allowing the use of “Virtual” pre- and post-inspections subject to certain conditions. This includes projects involving equipment that is prescriptive in nature and simple to confirm. Additionally, the inspection must be completed safely by the customer/owner using camera/video equipment they themselves provide. For complete details regarding eligibility, please contact your Program Administrator.
Q: Are Technical Assistance (TA) studies still being conducted?
If the TA firm is a contracted vendor with one of the Program Administrators, all on-premise work is suspended until further notice, but any analysis or other work that does not require an on-premise visit can and should continue. If the TA firm is not a contracted vendor, all work is done at their discretion, subject to mutual agreement between them and the customer.
Q: Are refrigerator pickups permitted, as long as the refrigerator is left outside?
Yes, provided there is no customer contact. The vendor should ensure all recommended precautions are being taken regarding social distancing.
Q: Are you allowing exceptions for safety or emergency situations? (Updated 4/30/2020)
We are allowing exceptions for when safety (e.g., open wiring) issues need to be addressed or when there is an emergency that may affect occupant health (e.g., failed heating system replacement). Please contact your Program Administrator if you have any questions.
Q: Can delivery be made on a product that has been purchased and shipped to a business location that is not staffed?
For contracted vendors, all non-essential work and appointments that require a contracted vendor to enter a customer’s home or business are suspended. For trade allies, this is subject to their discretion, as long as it is mutually agreeable and the customer and vendor are comfortable taking all precautions.