Program being developed to offer low-interest loans for energy improvements
May 22, 2015
Summit County Sustainability Coordinator Lisa Yoder is in the process of developing a program to help homeowners reduce their electric and heating bills by completing energy-efficient improvements to their homes.
The program will offer below-market, low-interest loans to any homeowner in the county who want to perform the improvements and are eligible for the loan.
Utah’s Private Activity Bond Authority approved a $4.3 million Qualified Energy Conservation Bond allocation to fund the county’s "Be Wise, Energize Residential Energy Efficiency Loan Program."
In order to start administering the loans, the Summit County Council had to approve a resolution to enable the drafting of a community development area plan, which defines the project and describes the community benefits attached with it. State law requires that a Community Development Area (CDA) be established to issue the bond allocation.
Once drafted, the plan will be made available for at least a month before a public hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for July 1. The bonds more than likely won’t be issued until September, Yoder said.
At the Summit County Council of Governments meeting on Tuesday, Yoder presented an outline of the program to the mayors of Kamas, Coalville, Oakley and Park City. In order for the program to be available to the residents in the municipalities, the city councils also have to pass resolutions authorizing the drafting of the plan.
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During the meeting, Jack Thomas, mayor of Park City, said he thinks creating incentives at the local level is a "great thing."
"You can build to code, but it’s really pretty minimal," Thomas said. "You can go above that by adding high-performance windows and super insulating, but the building part doesn’t create that incentive.
"It’s hard to enact that code change at the national level and the state level and this is an incentive to get this off the ground," Thomas said.
The goal is to be able to offer loans at, or less than, three percent interest to the homeowners for structural and mechanical improvements that will reduce energy bills, such as insulation and windows. It’s proposed for existing, primary single-family homes.
"We will simplify the process for homeowners who are interested so they don’t have to figure out where to get financing and where to get the insulation contractor and all these different elements that make it efficient," Yoder said.
Those interested in the program, Yoder said, will be able to sign up online and then have an energy audit performed on their home to determine if improvements would actually result in a reduction of energy consumption.
Applicants will only be approved if the improvements are necessary and will be effective. Officials say they don’t want to discourage anyone from applying, but emphasized the program will not cover improvements such as "new heaters for the pool or driveway."
County Council members have been extremely receptive to the program and have discussed ways to potentially make it a self-renewing if there is enough interest, which council members are confident there will be.
"We want everyone to be able to participate and we need that for the plan to succeed," County Council Chair Kim Carson said.
The energy efficiency loan program is part of the county’s bid for a $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize. The county was named as a semi-finalist in the national competition, which includes Kearns Township, Utah, to reduce their energy consumption during the next two years.
As previously reported in The Park Record, the competition, which began Jan. 1, measures residential and municipal consumption of electricity and natural gas. The local non-profit Summit Community Power Works (SCPW), which has partnered with local utility companies and entities, including the school districts and municipalities, is spearheading the effort.
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