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Movement on Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Rural Homeowners Through On-Bill Financing with Electric Cooperatives

Jul 19, 2012

Momentum has been growing for electric cooperatives providing affordable financing to their members to make whole house energy upgrades to their homes and the loan being repaid through the member’s monthly electric bill.  Pioneered by the electric cooperatives in South Carolina there is now a movement to open the initiative nationally.

The U.S. Senate has included a provision for electric cooperatives “Rural Energy Savings Program” in its version of the Farm Bill.  The House is currently in the process of crafting its own version of the Farm Bill.  It remains to be seen whether the House will incorporate on-bill financing in its legislation and whether both houses can agree to a Farm Bill in the current political climate.

Not content to wait for Congress to act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking a leadership position on promoting on-bill financing for rural America families.

During a teleconference with reporters on July 17 2012, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that he was putting $250 million into the national adoption of a program which allows electric cooperative customers to take out USDA-funded loans to make energy upgrades and pay back the loans through their monthly utility savings.  For more information on this announcement click on http://www.theitem.com/news/ap_state_news/article_994c60d9-7f7d-5b3f-89f2-069a1dab4ad8.html

At the same time Secretary Vilsack announced that the Department of Agriculture was proposing regulations to allow the Department through the Rural Utilities Service to establish policies and procedures to implement energy efficiency loan programs aligned with the Department’s Rural Economic Development Energy Efficiency effort, which is designed to create jobs in the energy efficiency industry, and builds upon the work that Rural Development has done in providing funding and support for improving the energy efficiency of single and multi-family housing, businesses, farms, and utility companies.  The proposed rule will appear later this month in the Federal Register.

Farm Futures quoted Secretary Vilsack as saying, “”The upfront costs of energy improvements often preclude homeowners and businesses from investing in cost-effective, energy efficiency upgrades. This rule will help make those costs more affordable through increased lending opportunities.”

RESNET will be offering a session on on-bill financing at the 2013 RESNET Building Performance Conference.