This Wednesday, October 5, a network of organizations and partners across the country will join together to promote the benefits of energy efficiency for the first-ever, nationwide “Energy Efficiency Day.” Appalachian Voices, a nonprofit organization based in Boone, North Carolina, will join in the efforts to raise awareness about the many benefits of using electricity more wisely.
In anticipation of the day, Appalachian Voices is releasing a series of short, informative videos showing a variety of do-it-yourself energy savings tips. The link to all five videos (lasting roughly a minute and half each) can be found here.
“When it comes to weather in Appalachia, we’ve got it all – bitter cold winters, drenching springs, hot, humid summers and chilly autumns,” says Rory McIlmoil, Energy Policy Director. “Making one’s home energy efficient means having a more comfortable home, no matter the weather, while saving money.” The DIY videos have tips on lighting, weatherization, appliances, and heating and cooling systems.
The videos are part of the organization’s public education and outreach efforts through its Energy Savings Program. The overall goal of the program is to develop financing programs through rural electric cooperatives that provide upfront funding for customers to do energy efficiency home improvements. The customers will benefit immediately from lower energy costs on their monthly bills and more comfortable and healthy homes, while repaying the cost over time.
It’s generally cheaper, and cleaner to reduce energy demand than it is to produce more energy, making energy efficiency a wise choice, says McIlmoil. Moreover, ramping up energy efficiency programs creates local jobs and demand for a variety of services such as energy audits and weatherization.
Appalachian Voices worked successfully with Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp. and others to establish the Energy SAVER Loan Program, which is providing $100,000 in loans to as many as 30 homeowners in the BRE service area for weatherization, insulation and heating system improvements. Appalachian Voices is now raising awareness of these types of programs in the French Broad and Surry-Yadkin co-op areas.
Lower-income communities in particular benefit from energy efficiency programs. “In the region served by these three electric co-ops, there are 24,000 families living in poverty and 72,000 homes that are more than 30 years old,” McIlmoil says. “These numbers suggest that what’s needed to fully tackle the problem of high energy costs is millions of dollars a year this made available to help residents of all income levels afford energy efficiency improvements. That level of investment would also be a significant boon to local economies.”
Appalachian Voices recently conducted a Facebook survey of western North Carolina residents and found that roughly 89% said they have trouble paying their energy bills sometimes, often or always.
The Southeast has the largest untapped energy-efficiency resources of any region in the U.S., with 29% of the nation’s total wasted energy. The largely rural area of Appalachia, where homes are less efficient than average, is particularly ready for robust energy efficiency programs.