U.S. Department of Energy Secretary (DOE) Steven Chu applauded the launch of the city of New Orleans’ NOLA Wise, one of the department’s Better Buildings Neighborhood projects. The $1.7 million initiative, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will allow participants to increase the comfort, safety and affordability of their homes through energy-saving home improvements. Through DOE’s Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, 41 projects are bringing state and local governments and partnering organizations together to provide high-quality, accessible and affordable energy improvements to homes and businesses to reduce energy use and save families money on their energy bills.

NOLA Wise, managed by the environmental nonprofit Global Green USA, helps homeowners through each step of the energy-efficiency improvement process. Through the program, New Orleans homeowners can learn about energy efficiency, gain access to home energy assessors and nationally certified green building contractors, and qualify for low-interest loans to make energy-efficient home upgrades.

NOLA Wise also provides a project management service to ensure homeowners receive a professional and thorough home energy assessment and high-quality work from approved contractors. NOLA Wise expects to expand its market from residential clients to commercial properties in its second year.

“This program encourages New Orleans homeowners to improve the efficiency of their homes in order to save money by saving energy,” Chu said. “Across the U.S., programs like NOLA Wise are increasing the demand for energy-saving products and services, creating jobs and helping families to reduce energy waste and save money.”

The Better Buildings Neighborhood Program is part of the Better Buildings Initiative—a program within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy that is lowering barriers to energy efficiency in buildings. Funded with more than $500 million from the DOE, the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program will leverage an estimated $3 billion in additional resources over the next three years.

The program aims to save consumers about $65 million annually on energy bills through assistance with energy-efficiency upgrades.