In its first official step to implement the Green Communities Act, NSTAR, a Massachusetts electric and gas utility, filed a plan to expand its energy-efficiency programs that are aimed at helping residential heating customers in time for the upcoming winter season. In collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, NSTAR is proposing increased funding for programs that help customers take control of their heating costs, such as the high-efficiency heating rebate program and the weatherization program.

“High fuel costs continue to make headlines every day, and our customers are looking to us to help them manage bills this winter,” said Thomas J. May, NSTAR chairman, president and CEO.

NSTAR filed the proposal in response to requests by the Department of Public Utilities and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources that energy-efficiency programs in the state be significantly enhanced in time for the heating season. The company began researching the most cost-effective way to do so in the least amount of time.

“Heating costs this winter will be difficult for most of us and could be tragic for far too many. [Massachusetts Gov. Deval] Patrick, Senate President [Therese] Murray and Speaker [Salvatore F.] DiMasi recently formed a winter heating task force to marshal all of the state’s best solutions for dealing with this impending challenging winter,” said Philip Giudice, commissioner, Department of Energy Resources. “We are already seeing greatly increased demand for energy-efficiency services, as consumers take steps to get ready for the winter. Now the utilities and other service providers are working to meet that demand, and it is good to see them stepping forward.”

The program expansions specifically promote the installation of Energy Star-rated heating equipment and increase money available through the HEAT loan, a no-interest loan available to homeowners who make efficiency upgrades. In addition, the expansion will enhance the residential Energy Star thermostat program, which makes programmable thermostats available to customers to help control their heating costs. NSTAR’s low-income single family and multifamily programs also get a significant boost to support heating and insulation related improvements.

As an electrical contractor, you’re in a good position to capitalize on work generated by these programs, and the feeling of helping those in need could be an extra benefit to boost the morale of you and your crews.