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The Energy Efficiency Trifecta: Rural Edition

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the HOME STAR-aka, "cash for caulkers"-home energy efficiency program that would offer healthy rebates to...


A couple weeks ago I wrote about the HOME STAR-aka, "cash for caulkers"-home energy efficiency program that would offer healthy rebates to homeowners for the costs of anything from insulation to efficient furnaces and water heaters to whole home audits and retrofits. It's a simple plan that I don't doubt for a second would be wildly effective, but as Dave Roberts points out, it doesn't really help the folks that can't afford to pay even half of those relatively hefty upfront costs.In cities and affluent towns that offer it, PACE loans cover the upfront costs and can be paid back in energy savings over time. But that still leaves out a lot of folks in rural towns across the country. Here's Roberts on why that matters:
First off, rural homes-over 20 percent of which are manufactured homes-are substantially less efficient than their urban and suburban counterparts. That's why, even though their homes are generally smaller and their electricity is generally cheaper, the average rural household pays $200-$400 more a year on energy bills than comparable urban households. And given that they make roughly $10,000 less per year, that's not chump change.
So what's the solution? Roberts points out a new proposal by Third Way, which would "effectively extend a PACE-like program to rural homeowners. Rather than being administered by cities, though, it would be run by utilities, specifically the customer-owned utility co-ops that serve rural areas." The benefits, as I'm getting used to saying, are trifold: cost savings for the homeowner, good jobs in the ailing construction industry, and lower carbon emissions. Check out Roberts' piece for more details, like the costs ("beans!") and how the idea has already been wrapped into some bipartisan Senate legislation called the Rural Energy Savings Program.Photo (cc) from Flickr user Bossco
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