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"Going Green" Could Get Easier With New Energy-Efficiency Loans

PHOTO: Energy-efficiency projects can be daunting, but new legislation hopes to make it simpler and more affordable for some Michigan utility customers by providing low-interest, longer-term loans tied to their bills. Photo credit: hilaryci/morguefile.com.
PHOTO: Energy-efficiency projects can be daunting, but new legislation hopes to make it simpler and more affordable for some Michigan utility customers by providing low-interest, longer-term loans tied to their bills. Photo credit: hilaryci/morguefile.com.
December 26, 2014

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Some Michiganders looking to "green up" their homes received a holiday gift from the state legislature in the form of a creative financing program to make those improvements affordable. Among the few bipartisan efforts to come out of the lame-duck session, lawmakers approved a bill which permits city-owned utilities to manage the collection of low-interest, longer-term loans for energy-efficiency projects by allowing customers to pay them back on their energy bills.

Jim Dulzo, senior energy policy specialist with the Michigan Land Use Institute, says if the project is properly designed, the customer's bills will go down more or the same as the monthly payment on the loan.

"It doesn't really affect your household budget or cash-flow at all, then suddenly you're more comfortable," he says. "The real gravy comes when the loan is finally paid off, and then suddenly you're seeing all those savings."

The new law only applies to residential customers of municipal utilities in the state, which total about 260,000 households, but Dulzo says if the plan proves successful it could eventually expand to the state's investor-owned utilities such as DTE and Consumer's Energy.

Dulzo says this sort of financing program, which is currently offered in 20 other states, has benefits for the environment as well as the economy.

"You will be using less coal, you probably will be using less natural gas if that's how you heat your home," says Dulzo. "It really does reduce atmospheric emission from burning fossil fuel, and it puts a lot of people to work."

The legislation has strong support in the city of Holland, which has adopted a community plan to cut energy use by 50 percent by 2050, and is served by the Holland Board of Public Works.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI