David Cawley and his five colleagues would like to change the world. If that isn't immediately possible, they are content to start with Anacostia.
Cawley and friends make up the Anacostia Energy Alliance, and they hope to make Anacostia the most energy-efficient neighbourhood in the city. When it is, they say they will move on to another sector.
The alliance is an off-shoot of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a community-based organization that teaches people to be self-reliant in everything from food production to energy production. The institute is five years old, but the Anacostia organization has only been around since April.
The alliance chose Anacostia to spearhead its program because "we think it's good to start at the neighborhood level, and Anacostia is a neighborhood which always seems to be the last to get any city services," said Cawley. "We thought this was a good place to start for another reason. There are a large percentage of homeowners in the area, and they really have something to gain by making their homes energy efficient."
The group uses a procedure they call an energy audit. To conduct an audit, alliance members go into a home, collect data, such as electric and fuel bills for the past year, and make a visual inspection of the house. When they return to their cramped quarters at the Union Temple Baptist Church on 14th Street SE, the alliance workers analyze their information.
There is no fee for the work, which is underwritten by grants to the alliance. Cawley estimates the audits cost about $170 each.
Eventually the findings and recommendationd are put into booklet form and returned to the residents. Included in the information is a card entitling the resident to discounts at local hardware stores for the purchase of insulation and other materials.
The Energy Alliance is funded primarily with money from the United Planning Organization and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development. The staff consists of six people ranging in age from 16 to 43 working for the modest sum of $4 an hour. All staff members, except Cawley, the director, live in Anacostia.
In addition to analyzing data and making recommendations, the alliance members do manual labor. They spent a recent Saturday installing a solar collecter for a hot water heater on the roof of the house at 3972 Second St. SE. They have also helped residents perform such energy-saving labors as installing insulation, sealing wall cracks and caulking aroung windows and doors.
Since April, the group has audited 100 single-family homes. The booklwts have been assembled, and the alliance is visiting residents to discuss their findings and to make recommendations.
The most common problem they have found is heat loss due to "infiltration."
"Infiltration is when walls have cracks in them, and the cracks allow draughts of cold air to enter the rooms," the bearded Cawley explained. "Many of the houses here are about 50 years old, and the walls have a lot of cracks. The people who have sealed the cracks will be able to see remarkable savings in their heating costs next winter.
During a recent week the group attended a refresher course in conservation under the careful tutelage of their director. Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and standing before a movable chalk board in the Union Temple Baptist Church, Cawley used the Socratic method of teaching to dissect an electric bill.
"Okay, who can tell me how many BTUs there are in a kilowatt hour?" he asked.
A few moments passed before Shirley Hinkle, seated on a folding chair at a table behind Cawley replied, "3,413."
"Riigghht," drawled Cawley. And on to the next question about declining block rates.
The group members appeated to have done their homework. The day was sultry and the folding chairs were sticky, but the session continued until the area was littered with empty soft drink bottles and the ashtrays were full. By late afternoon, the Energy Alliance knew as much about electric bills as most Pepco employes.
Alliance members Jimi Jackson and Joe jones also participated in the training session.
"We have found people with several-hundred-dollar a month electric bills," said Sheila Miles earnestly. "They are anxious to have someone show them how to save electricity. We have actually seen electric bills in the thousands of dollars, but in those cases the people are involved in some sort of stand-off with Pepco."
In addition to energy audits, the alliance conducts energy workshops which are open to the public. At the completion of a workshop, the group makes homemade solar collecter for installation in the home of one of the participants.
The Alliance also aids people in locating tools they can borrow and provides information about low-interest loans for homeowners engaged in construction for energy conservation. Included in the booklets is information from the Internal Revenue Service about tax credits for energy conservation expenditures.
The Anacostia Energy Alliance is enthusiastic about its chances for success. The members hope to move soon from their church front cubbyhole. Five public schools have requested energy audits during the coming year. "We've just been canvassing door-to-door and advertising by word of mouth," said Taleb Calloway. CAPTION: Picture, David Cawley and his helper construct a solar panel on top of Anacostia house. By Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post