The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) State and Local Climate and Energy Program has developed a series of case studies and program profiles showcasing successful clean energy initiatives in low-income communities. The EPA series features five scalable and replicable programs that have reduced greenhouse gas emissions, cut utility costs, improved air quality, and created jobs in low-income areas.
- DTE Energy Low-Income Energy Efficiency Assistance Program
- Help My House
- Chumash Community Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Project
- California Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing Program: benefitting both owners and tenants
- Energy Outreach Colorado: a nonprofit hub for energy assistance
One of the featured programs, the “Help My House” initiative, is an on-bill financing program that EESI helped develop in South Carolina. Beginning in 2011 as a pilot by the rural electric cooperatives (co-ops) in South Carolina, the “Help My House” program helps make energy efficiency savings accessible to low-income co-op member-customers. The cooperatives provide low-interest loans to their members to pay for energy efficiency retrofits; these loans are then paid back through the members' electricity bills. The program allows participating residents to save money by reducing their energy use, even while paying off the loans.
The “Help My House” pilot program worked with 125 participating homes to implement energy saving technologies and reduced participant utility bills by nearly 34 percent. The program was successful with participants of all income levels in part because it eliminated upfront costs and approved participants via good payment history of their electricity bills rather than by checking their credit scores. Since the end of the pilot, “Help My House” has continued as an ongoing program, improving approximately 400 additional homes to date.
EESI worked with the South Carolina co-ops and their state association to help develop, implement and assess the “Help My House” pilot. Following the pilot's success, EESI launched its On-Bill Financing Project in 2014 and now works to bring this financing model to other co-ops and public utilities across the country.
Authors: Caitlin Majewski and John-Michael Cross