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Governor Beebe's Weekly Column and Radio Address: Saving Money Efficiently


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I recently returned from the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago. This was the first CGI event focused solely on domestic issues in the United States, specifically creating American jobs and driving economic growth. More than 700 leaders from businesses, nonprofits and government came together to address the many economic challenges our nation still faces.

I was invited to talk about Arkansas's success with our innovative, energy-saving pilot program called HEAL. HEAL, which stands for Home Energy Assistance Loan Program, is the first program of its kind in the nation. I shared the accomplishments, as well as the challenges, that we've seen since we started this project in 2009.

The concept behind HEAL is this: When we are more energy efficient, we free up capital through reduced utility bills. The money saved can be used instead to stimulate business investment, create jobs and boost consumer spending.

HEAL is administered through the Clinton Climate Initiative in Arkansas. So far, three partners have been selected for participation: L'Oreal USA in North Little Rock; the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs; and Friendship Community Care in Russellville. We are currently working to add a fourth institution to this list.

HEAL began as an effort to help our state's working families, many of whom pay a disproportionate percentage of their income for utility bills. Ninety-five percent of Arkansans live in single-family, residential homes that are usually older and require more energy to heat and cool than newly-constructed homes. Many families would like to make energy-efficient improvements to their homes, but lack the extra money necessary to invest in those renovations.

The HEAL program uses one-time federal stimulus money to begin a cycle of energy savings that can make a difference for decades. Participating businesses are given facility audits and zero-interest, retrofit financing to make energy-efficiency improvements to their facilities. HEAL then provides home-energy audits and retrofit opportunities for up to 100 employees at each participating business. The businesses use part of their utility savings to develop an employee-loan fund that finances energy-efficient improvements to employees' homes. The employees pay back the loans over time based on their projected savings on utility bills.

With some seed money from the State of Arkansas, employers can use HEAL to reduce costs and provide a unique and innovative benefit to their employees. For the employees, this benefit keeps more money in their pockets and improves the value of their homes. For Arkansas, this program creates new jobs for energy auditors, construction retrofitters and support staff. We've already seen 250 employee homes audited and 75 retrofitted. Those homeowners are expected to save an average savings of 20% on their utility bills.

Energy-efficiency programs help our environment and our economy. Through initiatives, like the HEAL program, Arkansas has taken a pioneering role in finding new ways for our businesses to improve both the lives of their employees and their bottom lines.

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