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Taking Initiative

It seems our friends on the East Coast are really stepping up their game. First we hear about the strives New Jersey has made to stimulate production of alternative energy sources. Now we’re seeing New York municipalities launching programs to help residents become more energy efficient.

Municipal governments from Long Island to the Bay Area are helping residents purchase efficient furnaces, weatherize their homes and put solar panels on their roofs. The costs of such procedures are usually enough to keep most homeowners from making the shift to energy-efficiency. But, these programs are designed to be “recession proof.” Long Island suburb Babylon’s town supervisor reported to the Wall Street Journal, “To me it’s the perfect recession programs. It’s cost-effective. You’re actually creating jobs in a way that is not impacting taxpayers. But it’s helping everyone by improving the environment.”

Babylon launched its “Long Island Green Homes” program last October after a redefined solid waste program freed up $2 million of the solid waste reserve fund to seed the program. Now, residents can apply for as much as $12,000 in loans to finance home energy-efficiency improvements and rooftop solar panels.

The program works like this: After an energy audit, the town pays a local contractor to make energy improvements. The homeowner then pays the money back to the town through regular trash bills, with 3% interest. The best part is that the loan is structured so the homeowner pays less than he or she is saving in utilities.

So, local contractors are getting more business. People are conserving our resources and reducing their environmental impact – all while saving money. This sounds like winning situation.

So far, the program has been a hit. Babylon reports that about fifty homeowners a month call the town to ask for energy audits, most of which are converted to work contracts. A local contractor has already reported retrofitting 42 homes and counting since the program began and has had to hire additional employees and plans to hire more.

These New York municipalities are surely trailblazers and it seems that more local and state governments are close behind. According to the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy, eleven other states now have laws on the books that allow local governments to establish financing programs for home-energy improvements. Pilot programs, like Babylon’s, have launched in five cities in California and several other local governments around the nation.


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