Half of energy loans to be offered up front
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
December 20, 2012
A new loan-funding scheme has been worked out for a Teton County residential energy efficiency program.
The Jackson Hole Energy Sustainability Project voted Wednesday in favor of giving some participants in the program 50 percent of their loan money up front. The decision was made to inform state officials of the decision and seek their endorsement.
Some homeowners seeking funds for energy-efficient home improvements have said they needed money in advance to get projects started. But the board has been stuck because the state and federal governments, which provide the loan money, have required that a project be completed and inspected before funds are awarded. Project board members hope that by adopting the change and asking the state’s OK — rather than asking for approval in advance — they’ll encourage acceptance of the change.
By giving half of the money initially, more people will be able to use the program, board members said.
“We’re trying to grow this program,” board member John Reed said. “We may be missing opportunities.”
A few people have said they wouldn’t pursue a loan because they couldn’t get the money up front. But even more may not be looking into the program because of the rule about work first, pay second, Reed said.
Still, some members pointed out that state rules require the home upgrades to save kilowatt hours. If a project isn’t completed or isn’t completed correctly, the group could be on the hook for the money.
“My concern is we’re using federal dollars and we’re supposed to use them in a certain way,” said board member Jim Webb, who is also the president and CEO of Lower Valley Energy. “You don’t have any leverage once the money is out of your hand.”
With that in mind, the board decided to give the executive director of the energy project, Shelley Simonton, the power to give loan recipients 50 percent of the money up front. But they also decided to ask the state’s permission.
Members unanimously voted to pass the motion, which included both stipulations.
“It’s in the spirit of providing more customer service, getting more projects done and saving more kilowatt hours,” Simonton said before the board voted.
Most of the program’s projects cost about $7,500 and involve installing energy-efficient windows. Other projects, such as installing solar heating, can require loans of up to $20,000.