In South Carolina, electricity providers are ensuring everyone benefits from energy efficiency, and the federal government is helping them do it.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a $13 million, no-interest loan to seven electric cooperatives in South Carolina. The funds will be used to help customers make cost-effective, energy efficiency improvements to their homes. Officials estimate that about 1,300 customers will receive improvements as a result of the loan.
The funding will support growth of the Help My House on-bill financing program utilized by the South Carolina co-ops. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) helped the co-ops launch the program in 2011.
Under the program, co-ops provide guidance, financing and quality assurance to their customers to make substantial, cost-effective home energy improvements. Participants pay no upfront costs, but they repay the co-op over time through a fixed charge on their monthly electric bill. Savings from the efficiency improvements offset the monthly charge. According to the EESI, Help My House has so far improved 740 homes, with initial participants saving more than 30 percent on their energy bills on average.
The funding for the loan is provided through the USDA’s Rural Energy Savings Program, which was created in 2014 by legislation sponsored by Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-SC).
Clyburn said the funding will provide support for energy efficiency improvements to families “who need it most.” He explained that high energy costs hit working families harder in rural communities where older homes and mobile homes are “particularly energy inefficient.”
The program is also going national. Recently, the USDA announced another $100 million in funding will be available nationally for the Rural Energy Savings Program.