Initial Findings on South Carolina's "Help My House" Pilot Released

For Immediate Release: July 20, 2012

For more information contact: John-Michael Cross at (202) 662-1883 or jmcross [at] eesi.org

Washington, DC - South Carolina rural electric cooperatives (co-ops) have released promising preliminary findings from their "Help My House" pilot, part of the co-ops' Rural Energy Savings Program. The pilot allows co-op members to borrow money for energy efficiency improvements to their homes, which is repaid as part of their electric bills. This process is referred to as "on-bill financing." The 125 participating households are projected to save an average of more than $400 per year (after loan payments) by reducing their electricity use an average of 35 percent.

The pilot was launched in 2011 by the Central Electric Power Cooperative, the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, and eight South Carolina co-ops, with technical and policy support from EESI. The comprehensive energy retrofit approach is projected to yield an average energy savings of more than 11,000 kWh/year per home. Though the average loan was for $7,200 over a 10-year term, the net financial benefits are expected to be immediate, particularly during energy-intensive summer and winter months. The 35 percent projected energy savings from this meter-based on-bill financing pilot is substantially higher than the savings achieved by many traditional utility rebate-based residential retrofit programs. Further, 96 percent of interviewed participants said that they were satisfied with the program and found their homes to be more comfortable. The pilot homes are undergoing a yearlong measurement phase to confirm projections. In conjunction with these preliminary results, EESI has released fact sheets about the pilot program and a general overview of on-bill financing.

The South Carolina pilot was funded primarily through a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utility Service, the first such energy efficiency loan program supported by the USDA. On July 17, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced plans to establish the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program that would support scaled-up versions of the South Carolina pilot across the country. The proposed rule would authorize the Rural Utility Service to provide up to $250 million in loans to rural electric co-ops for energy efficiency improvements, including on-bill financing programs. "This energy efficiency effort can help rural Americans reduce energy costs while simultaneously expanding business and investment opportunities in rural communities," Vilsack said. The USDA proposed rule will soon be available for public comment.