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Energy Legislation in Congress Bodes Well for Kentucky

September 24, 2010

BEREA, Ky. - Congressional legislation that encourages energy efficiency and bolsters job growth in manufacturing and construction is waiting for action by the U.S. Senate. Kentucky's 1st District Congressman, Republican Ed Whitfield, is co-sponsor of a measure that would make it possible for rural electric cooperatives to lend money to homeowners and small businesses for energy efficiency upgrades.

Justin Maxson, president of MACED, the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, says the Rural Energy Savings Program Act, which cleared the House last week, complements the federal Home Star plan -- also under consideration -- that gives rebates for whole-house retrofits and appliance replacement.

"These two pieces of legislation just create opportunities for local jobs that are hard to outsource and that result in real dollars going into people's pockets in a way that Kentucky can't afford to avoid."

Maxson believes the energy efficiency measures will be a boon to Kentucky's beleaguered construction industry, which shed more than 11,000 jobs last year. MACED is partnering with four electric cooperatives in eastern Kentucky to pilot a program that would make the Rural Energy funds available to homeowners.

"The thing that's really exciting about it is that it makes energy efficiency improvements accessible for low-income people, because if they don't have the capital, they need to get the capital somewhere and this is the sort of thing that can save hundreds of dollars each month, every month. "

Typical loans under the federal Rural Energy Savings Program would be between $1,500 to $7,000 and cover sealing, insulation, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, roofs and other upgrades. The Rural Energy Savings Program Act authorizes nearly $5 billion over the next 10 years for rural utility cooperatives to offer low-interest loans to customers making energy efficiency improvements, at no upfront cost.

Opponents argue the measure is too costly and duplicates existing programs.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY