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App Voices Launches ‘Home Energy Makeover Contest’ Thursday, Deadline To Enter Nov. 15

By Jesse Wood

Oct. 9, 2014. Appalachian Voices launched its “High Country Home Energy Makeover Contest” today. Residents residing in the Blue Ridge Electric Membership Cooperative service area are eligible to enter the contest.

The launch party for this contest and overall home energy-efficiency campaign for people interested in volunteering and interested in the issue takes place at the Appalachian Voices offices at 171 Grand Blvd. in Boone on Thursday, Oct. 9, from 6 to 7 p.m. Snacks, drinks and music will be provided.

The contest, which is open for entries until Nov. 15, will award three lucky winners with thousands of dollars in home-energy improvements and efficiency retrofits.

All three winners will receive energy audits, which are estimated to cost between $150 and $300. The first-place winner will receive at least $3,000 in home-energy improvements, and the second- and third-place winners will receive up to $1,000 in retrofits.

The contest is designed to save homeowners money on their monthly electric bills for years down the road – and more importantly reduce energy usage that could otherwise be avoided with some simple home improvements.

The Boone-based nonprofit’s “mission is to protect the region’s communities and natural resources by promoting a shift to a clean energy future,” according to a release from the organization announcing the contest.

“We’re excited to be able to help three local families in need save money on their electric bills and enjoy healthier, more comfortable homes, and also to engage all our neighbors in the High Country in the broader conversation about the many benefits of home energy efficiency,” says Rory McIlmoil, Energy Policy Director at Appalachian Voices.

The Home Energy Makeover may include duct sealing and repair, weatherization, air sealing, insulation, HVAC repair or upgrade and efficient lighting and appliances.

Aside from saving money and improvements to your home, McIlmoil added that the benefits of home-energy efficiency include creating and sustaining green jobs such as retrofitting houses, spurring the local economy with funds that families would have otherwise spent on wasted energy and reducing “carbon emissions and other pollution from dirty fossil fuels.”

Sponsors of this contest include Blue Ridge Energy Works, High Country Energy Solutions, HomEfficient, Sunny Day Homes, Blumenthal Foundation and ResiSpeak.

“Home energy efficiency is the single most direct way you can make a contribution to a clean energy future,” Sam Zimmerman, owner of Sunny Day Homes, said. “You know when you retrofit your house that you have reduced the need for fossil fuels to be dug up out of the ground and combusted.”

Appalachian Voices noted that it timed this contest to coincide with the upcoming winter season, when families undoubtedly see their electric bills skyrocket because of poor insulation, leaky windows and doors and inefficient heating systems.

Until the contest closes in the middle of November, representatives with Appalachian Voices will be out in the community promoting the contest, distributing applications and promoting energy efficiency. In the weeks ahead, Appalachian Voices is currently scheduled to set up at the Watauga County Farmers’ Market and the Todd New River Festival this Saturday.

But if you can’t get a hold of a hardcopy application, click here for more information, eligibility requirements and to fill out an online application http://www.appalachianvoices.org/energysavings/energycontest.

Appalachian Voices Petition for BREMCO to Offer On-Bill Financing

In addition to the contest coinciding with the dawn of winter, it also is apart of an overall campaign for home-energy efficiency that includes an open-ended petition that Appalachian Voices recently started in hopes of persuading BREMCO to offer “on-bill financing.”

“While we are helping three families through this contest, thousands of other High Country households need help to reduce their energy bills,” McIlmoil said. “The contest will help make the case that BREMCO should offer on-bill energy efficiency financing to its members.”

On-bill financing is a low-interest loan program that numerous electric utilities in North Carolina provide to customers that don’t have the means to pay out-of-pocket the full costs of comprehensive energy efficiency improvements and appliance upgrades in their homes.

After receiving a loan from the electric provider and funding the improvements, customers would then payback the loan with money saved from the energy savings each month. “Such “on-bill financing” programs have been extremely successful in other places, including in areas of North Carolina served by rural electric cooperatives,” the release from Appalachian Voices noted.

“While we are helping three families through this contest, thousands of other High Country households need help to reduce their energy bills,” McIlmoil said. “The contest will help make the case that BREMCO should offer on-bill energy efficiency financing to its members.”

Appalachian Voices is seeking 7,500 signatures [from BREMCO customers] on the petition, which is the number required to hold a special meeting with BREMCO.

BREMCO spokesperson Renee Whitener said she wasn’t aware of the petition as of Thursday evening. She added that she spoke to McIlmoil in August but hasn’t heard from him since.

“We agree that weatherizing homes is one of the most cost effective energy saving measures members can take. You may want to be aware that any of our local agencies, such as WAMY, may apply with us for funds to give to members to help with weatherization,” Whitener said in an email. “Also, we are in the process of evaluating our members interest in on-bill financing of weatherization loans. However, we’ve not had a lot of interest for this expressed from members in the past.”

While N.C. Field Organizer for Appalachian Voices Sarah Kellogg was pleased to hear that BREMCO is evaluating members’ interest in on-bill financing, Kellogg said in an email that WAMY, for example, has “more need than they can handle” and an expected long-waiting list.

“In order to qualify, a household has to meet their income requirements. This leaves out a lot of people who have high enough incomes that they don’t qualify for WAMY, but who still don’t have the disposable income to pay for energy efficiency improvements, which can easily range from $3,000-$7,000,” Kellogg said.

She added that hopefully the petition and more than 60 letters that Appalachian Voices as collected in favor of on-bill financing will prove that strong interest from the community for on-bill financing exists.

The petition went live on Appalachian Voices’ website on Wednesday evening. To sign the petition, click to www.appvoices.org/supportee.