In a show of bipartisanship, three members of the South Carolina Congressional Delegation, two Democrats and one Republican, appeared together with several other congressional colleagues at a press conference Wednesday to introduce legislation to help citizens in rural areas make their homes more energy efficient. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Fifth District Congressman John Spratt joined Republican Senator Lindsey Graham a measure establishing a nationwide Rural Energy Savings Program. The program is modeled after the South Carolina Electric Cooperatives’ plan to save their customers money on utility bills. The legislation provides $4.9 billion to be used to provide low-cost loans to rural electric consumers to make energy saving upgrades. Congressman Clyburn says the program is based on a simple, effective concept.
“The low cost home improvement loans for energy efficiency upgrades covers selings, insulation, HVAC systems, heat pumps, and other improvements that will produce the most energy savings. Those low cost loans are paid back on their electric bills using energy savings to cover the cost of the loan.”
The loans to residences and businesses will range from $1,500 to $7,000. Customers would repay the co-ops for the installation and material costs through a charge on their utility bills within a 5 to 10-year window. The energy savings from the upgrade will cover most, it not all, of the cost of the loan.
President and CEO of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina Mike Couick brought the program to the attention of the South Carolina Congressional delegation and participated in the announcement in Washington Wednesday. Senator Lindsey Graham says the program makes sound economic sense.
“The cost of this bill over a 10 year period is negligible to the taxpayer. The benefit of job creation is enormous. This is smart policy in which you can take a small comparatively of federal dollars, invest it in the economy, empowering people to help themselves. We’ll be more energy independent because we’ll be less dependent on fossil fuels. We’ll have people living in better homes, warmer homes and we’ll lower the cost to them.”
In South Carolina, 2,100 jobs are expected to be created in the first year of the program. That will be expanded to an estimated 4,800 permanent jobs due to ongoing savings. Nationwide the program will create 20,000 to 40, 000 jobs annually for utility auditors and personnel trained to install energy efficient products. Congressman Spratt says the measure creates a win-win situation for co-ops and their customers.
“It’s not a hand out, it’s not a grant. It’s a loan, but it’s a loan that can be arranged so that it can be easily repayable. If it works out as well as it might, the savings on energy efficiency may offset the additional finance cost of adding these facilities. For every $1 in federal expenses, the program should leverage $5 in residential enegy effcienncy investments. That’s a good deal!”
Graham says the legislation is an example of what can be accomplished when members of Congress from both sides of the aisle work together.
“To the co-ops in South carolina, you have been forward thinking on this. This is a marvelous idea. To my good friends Jim Clyburn and John Spratt, this shows what is possbile in Congress if people who know each other and like each other will work together and I am proud to be your partner here.”