Log Lunch with Angel Ortiz '17: Enhancement & Innovation in Residential Energy Efficiency, and How to Get Involved

As Rabbi Seth Wax highlighted in his opening remarks, community connection is one of the most important methods for navigating grief. On Friday February 22, students gathered together for Log Lunch following the tragic death of a student as a way to seek support, gratitude, and community among their peers. 

This week’s menu was the ideal, cozy meal to warm everyone up following a cold, February week. Log Lunchers enjoyed a beautifully colorful salad made from locally sourced fennel, pomelo, and purple daikon salad as well as cheesy focaccia with garlic, rosemary, and onions serving as the perfect compliment to a warm, hearty potato and leek soup. For dessert, everyone enjoyed an orange cake with chocolate ganache. The community also came to listen to Angel Ortiz, a Williams College class of 2017 former Hopkins Forest caretaker and WUFO player, speak about his career after Williams as a program and management analyst for the US Department of Energy where he works in the Office of Community Energy Programs as a key player for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). 

Ortiz began his talk with a general overview of The U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program. WAP is essentially a program focused on reducing energy costs for low-income households by helping to increase the energy efficiency of their homes. This support for low-income households is so important, because these communities carry a significantly larger energy burden than average or high income households, spending around 13.9% of annual income on energy versus the 3% of annual income for average households. Ortiz mentioned that the program supports 8,500 jobs and provides weatherization services to roughly 35,000 homes every year using DOE funds. As a result of these weatherization improvements, WAP helps these low-income households save an average of $373 each year. Since the program’s creation in 1976, WAP has served over 7 million families through weatherization services. Ortiz then spent some time outlining some limitations of WAP, namely the fact that many homes are ineligible for WAP’s services. 

Ortiz then redirected his talk to highlight his main three current projects. Weatherization Innovation through Roofing and Electrification (WIRE) is a program granted by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, and is dedicated to providing equitable access to deep energy retrofits through solar energy and electrification. This involves mitigating conditions causing roofing/electrical deferrals and weatherizing households before electrifying them and adding solar, PV, and Cold-climate Air Source Heat Pumps. Ortiz’ second project, “Preparing the Frontlines for a Climate Future through Holistic Weatherization” applied for by the “Houston Advanced Research Center,” is dedicated to the creation of an “innovative place-based deep retrofit weatherization program” in Texas’ underserved communities. WAP aims to increase the number of low income residents fully participating in the WAP, thereby reducing energy burden and making the residence climate ready. Ortiz’ final project is entitled “Cultivating a New Generation of Diverse WAP Workers,” and was applied for by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. This project aims to recruit the new, diverse generation of WAP workers.

Ortiz concluded his talk with some advice for people interested in getting involved with the program. He explained that there is a dire need for qualified energy auditors, managers, and analysts, and expressed the rewarding nature of helping people through his work.