Assistant Democratic Leader and Sixth District Congressman James E. Clyburn applauds the announcement by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the USDA will implement a program nationwide that was first piloted in South Carolina to make homes more energy efficient. Secretary Vilsack, with President Obama's support, is allocating up to $250 million in existing Rural Utilities Service funds for loans to electric cooperative customers to upgrade their energy efficiency and pay back the loans with savings they realize on their utility bills.
"This initiative will mean jobs in rural communities, electric bill savings for homeowners, and financial and environmental benefits for all Americans by reducing our demand for energy all at little cost to taxpayers," Congressman Clyburn said. "This is a loan program, and one of the most cost effective ways we can develop a secure energy future."
The USDA's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program is based on a South Carolina Electric Cooperatives pilot program that has proven extremely successful. In 2011, 125 electric cooperative members in South Carolina secured about $1.2 million through the Help My House pilot. The average loan was just over $7,200, and will be paid back in less than six years through savings on their utility bills.
Congressman Clyburn saw firsthand the benefits of this effort when he visited the Johnson family of Calhoun County earlier this year. The Johnsons were paying utility bills of $400 per month. The Tri-County Electric Cooperative loaned them $6500 to upgrade their heat pump, insulation and air sealing, and their utility costs were cut in half.
Mike Couick, CEO of the South Carolina electric cooperative association, expressed his appreciation for the expansion of the program in a media conference call with Congressman Clyburn and Secretary Vilsack.
"This is a win for the environment, it is a win for local communities, it is a win for homeowners, and it is a win for all electric coop consumers because we are avoiding building half of a nuclear unit at four billion dollars," Mr. Couick stated.
Secretary Vilsack commended the vision behind this initiative, "Congressman Clyburn and Mike Couick have been leaders not just in South Carolina, but nationally, in an effort to create greater energy efficiency in homes particularly in rural areas. What we are hoping to do today is a result of what is already being done in South Carolina to make these resources available to rural electric cooperatives to re-lend to homeowners to finance the upfront cost for energy efficient improvements."
Congressman Clyburn believes this a great first step to helping improve energy efficiency nationwide. He will continue his efforts to expand this initiative by having it enacted into statute. Language authorizing the Rural Energy Savings Program was passed by the U.S. Senate in June as part of the Farm Bill.