Help My House ,” a pilot energy efficiency program from South Carolina’s rural electric cooperatives (co-ops), has been nationally recognized for its innovative efforts to lower co-op members’ energy bills through home energy retrofits. The pilot, launched in 2011, is led by South Carolina’s Central Electric Power Cooperative, the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, and eight co-ops throughout the state. EESI is proud to have been part of the program since its inception, offering technical and policy support to the co-ops.

“Help My House” was awarded with an honorable mention from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) National Review of Exemplary Energy Efficiency Programs , in the category of Cooperatives and Public Power – Residential.

This is the third time the ACEEE has presented these awards, with previous reviews completed in 2003 and 2008. The awards are in 23 categories, for a variety of energy efficiency programs and designs run by utilities or utility-serving organizations. Programs were nominated as part of a nationwide search and were reviewed and selected by ACEEE and an expert review panel. According to ACEEE, “selected and recognized programs [were] judged to be models for emulation by other utilities and organizations. The selected programs demonstrate success in helping customers increase the energy efficiency of their homes, offices, businesses, and industries.” ACEEE announced that it will release a compendium of all these programs, featuring their descriptions, performance evaluations and key lessons learned, later this spring.

The “Help My House” program in South Carolina allows co-op members to borrow money for energy efficiency improvements to their homes, and then repay that money as part of their electric bills. This process is referred to as "on-bill financing." The pilot was implemented in late 2011 and early 2012, with low-interest loans issued and efficiency improvements made to 125 homes. These homes are projected to save an average of more than $400 per year (after loan payments) by reducing total electricity use by 35 percent. These projected energy savings are substantially higher than those achieved by many traditional utility rebate-based residential retrofit programs. Final results for the pilot, based on one year of energy use data for each retrofitted home, will be released in the coming weeks.

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 USDA. Last July, 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 co-ops and other rural utilities for energy efficiency improvements, including on-bill financing programs. The final rule is expected soon.

Read more about the "Help My House" program:

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE)'s announcement: