The US has a large number of electric co-ops and it is encouraging to see that they are offering low-interest loans to its members. Miles Hadfield explains on the Co-operative News website.
US electric co-ops use low-interest loans to power efficiency savings
Electric co-ops in the USA are offering low-interest loans to members, which are repaid with their monthly power bills, so they can afford energy-efficiency improvements.
The loans, which come at 3% interest, are available under the scheme from the US Department of Agriculture, the Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP), which has made up to $100 million available for RESP loans during the 2019 fiscal year, which began on 1 October.
NRECA, the umbrella body for the country’s electric co-ops, says its member organisations can obtain funds from the pool at 0% interest and use them to help consumer-members make long-awaited efficiency improvements with no need for down payments.
Energy upgrades funded through the scheme include high-efficiency heat pumps, attic insulation, caulking, and weatherstripping – which will help co-op members keep electricity costs down and will also be “bill neutral”, with the monthly savings from the upgrades offsetting the monthly loan payments.Help is also being offered to members who get energy audit options for financing energy-saving improvements and upgrades. That’s particularly attractive for higher-cost improvements they otherwise might delay or avoid because of upfront costs.
NRECA says the scheme comes at a welcome time, as the demand for winter heating begins, and is particularly important in states like South Carolina, where a quarter of co-op members live in manufactured housing which can be prone to heat leaks as they age, forcing utility bills through the roof.
It give the example of Diane Taylor, a member of the state’s Aiken Electric Cooperative, who once received a bill of more than £700 for her poorly insulated home. The co-op enrolled her in its Help My House programme which saw contractors make improvements including insulation, caulking and weatherstripping, a new energy-efficient heat pump with a thermostat, and sealed duct work.Ms Taylor told NRECA the changes are saving her family bout $250 a month, compared to bills before the upgrades.
“The Help My House program makes the members’ home more comfortable, saves them money and they are appreciative,” said Gary Stooksbury, CEO of Aiken Electric. “If we are truly about the member, we should help them lower their energy costs.