Energizing the Energy Policy Process: The Impact of Evaluation

By Roberta W. Walsh; John G. Heilman | Go to book overview

12
Evaluation and the Design and Implementation of Programs for Limited-Income Elderly 1

Nancy L. Markee, Colleen I. Murray, and Elaine L. Pedersen

Editors' Note. Demand-side management (DSM) program design frequently employs sophisticated research tools for purposes of segmenting markets. An attribute of importance in DSM is the energy savings potential of a given market segment, gauged in relation to that segment's realization of savings in terms of its expenditure for energy. In this context, low-income elderly may be an overlooked subset of the population. By examining energy consumption practices of recipients of the federal fuel assistance program in Nevada, the authors of this chapter point to the potential for incorporating this segment into DSM program design. Further and by implication, their attention to a group which may not figure prominently in DSM planning suggests a compensatory role for traditional public policy mechanisms. A federal presence prevails when equity among customer classes is at issue.

This chapter also provides an entry into how evaluation questions and problems vary as the policy maker elects to shift or blur the boundaries of the program's sectoral location. The problem is, in part, the need for focus in evaluation. Since human and material resources to support evaluation are limited, and since there are limits to how longpolicy windows are open and issues enjoy political and administrative attention, choices are inevitably made concerning which issues evaluation addresses and which it does not. It is instructive to note what is not at issue in this evaluation of public sector programs. Not at issue is whether a program that is delivering optimizable services is in place. In other words, there is a program model or theory that is accepted as plausible and that leads to a series of fairly nearly delimited evaluation questions, accessible through reasonably standard survey methodology. These deal with home temperatures, concern about health, need for warmth, political efficacy, comfort with seeking assistance, and other matters such as the legibility of informational material. While the question of program continuation is clearly in the background, its resolution does not seem dependent on the plausibility of the program theory itself. By contrast, Chapter 13, which examines low-income programs with a different sectoral emphasis, will place another kind of issue on the table for examination. To say this is not to suggest that centering program activity in public sector processes ensures tractable questions for evaluators. Rather, the point is that sectoral emphasis will influence the kinds of questions that are likely to surface

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