Washington, DC, July 2013 - South Carolina's consumer-owned electric cooperatives (co-ops) have released the results of their "Help My House" Loan Pilot Program. The pilot provided loans to co-op member-owners to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes. The loans are being repaid to the co-ops through participants' utility bills, in a process known as "on-bill financing." Billing data on the 125 participating South Carolina homes indicates a 34 percent reduction in energy use (1.35 million kWh) in the year after the work was completed, an average savings of $288 per home after loan payments.
The low-interest 10-year loans (which averaged just under $7,700) are on track for a simple payback of 6.6 years, nearly identical to projections released last year. The average participating home is expected to save a net of more than $8,500 over 15 years. The pilot applied a comprehensive "whole house" approach, in which all of the energy efficiency measures were evaluated as part of the same system. Participating homes received a combination of air sealing, duct repair, HVAC upgrades, and insulation improvements. More than 95 percent of participants reported that they were more satisfied with their co-op after participating in the pilot.
The pilot program was launched in 2011 by Central Electric Power Cooperative, the wholesale power provider to South Carolina's 20 electric cooperatives and the 1.3 million consumers they serve, and The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, the co-ops' marketing and public policy partner. Eight participating South Carolina co-ops marketed the pilot, screened prospects, conducted audits, presented loan documents, advised participants and provided strategic project guidance. EESI provided technical and policy support. Loan funds were partially provided through a no-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program.
The final results of the pilot further demonstrate that energy efficiency retrofits can be successfully implemented using an on-bill financing model. While availability of loan capital remains an obstacle for a larger program, three of the participating South Carolina co-ops are moving ahead with energy efficiency programs under the "Help My House" banner and model. Two South Carolina co-ops that did not participate in the pilot are now initiating programs.
Nationally, the prospects for such programs may be improving. The recently-passed Senate farm bill authorizes the creation of the Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP), which would provide loans and assistance to co-ops around the country to start or scale up on-bill financing programs.