For Immediate Release: October 25, 2010
For More Information Contact:

  • EESI - (202) 662-1883 or policy [at]


  • Van O’Cain, ECSC, (803) 739-3048
  • Lindsey Smith, ECSC, (803) 739-3046

Washington, DC – A partnership announced today will implement an innovative program to finance energy efficiency improvements for rural homes with low-cost loans that are repaid through customers’ electric bills (aka “on-bill financing”). The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), a nonprofit policy education and outreach organization, will work with electric cooperatives in South Carolina to design and implement the pilot project for a “Rural Energy Savings Program” that will serve as a model for similar programs in other states, and a pending national program. The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina (ECSC), the state association of electric cooperatives, and Central Electric Power Cooperative, the state’s generation and transmission co-op, will be EESI’s lead partners in this effort. The collaboration between the co-ops and EESI to design and implement this pilot project is being supported by a $225,000 grant to EESI from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

The program will make energy efficiency improvements available to families who otherwise might not be able to afford them or qualify for conventional loans – and keep electricity affordable for rural electric cooperative members by avoiding the need for costly new generation capacity. “That’s particularly important for our low-income co-op members who may spend 60 to 80 percent of their disposable income on energy during the peak heating and cooling seasons,” explained ECSC President Mike Couick.

Under the program, one-third of the energy cost savings for each participating household will be used to reduce its monthly electric bill, and two-thirds will go to repay the loan. The South Carolina program aims to ultimately retrofit more than 200,000 homes and save co-op members an estimated $280 million a year.

The program will also help South Carolina reduce projected greenhouse gas emissions by 6.7 million metric tons over 10 years and avoid or delay $4 billion in new electric generation costs. At present, a majority of the state’s electricity is generated from coal, and South Carolina is facing the prospect of building nuclear power facilities to meet demands of a growing population and greenhouse gas reduction goals. Studies conducted on behalf of the state’s co-ops, however, indicated that efficiency was the smartest and cheapest energy “source,” especially given the large number of older, less efficient homes in the state’s rural areas. “South Carolina could be the Saudi Arabia of energy efficiency,” Couick added.

EESI will bring to the project technical expertise and extensive experience with related federal and state energy programs. EESI will also leverage relationships with stakeholders across the energy community to share the lessons learned from the pilot project with other states. “This cutting-edge project provides a financially sustainable model for achieving dramatic energy cost savings and greenhouse gas reductions,” said EESI Executive Director Carol Werner.

The program maximizes its impact by actively seeking out the most cost-effective improvements from a large pool of high energy use homes. Such innovations, including the use of on-bill financing, and the potential for nationwide replication were important in gaining support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The project was one of nine selected from among 372 pre-proposals that the Foundation received through a national competition soliciting ideas for scalable approaches to spurring energy efficiency retrofits of existing buildings in the United States.

The opportunity for rural residents to save on their energy bills, keep more dollars in the local community, and put people to work helping their neighbors attracted the interest of South Carolina’s congressional delegation. “This is a home-grown idea that has the potential to lower the cost of heating and cooling throughout South Carolina,” said Congressman John Spratt (D-SC). It will “provide a shot in the arm for the economies of rural communities,” he added.

Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC) eventually became the lead sponsor for the Rural Energy Savings Program Act (also known as “Rural Star”), which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September with broad bipartisan support. A companion bill in the U.S. Senate, sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), is pending. Sen. Graham explained his strong support for the bill, saying “the cost of this bill over a 10-year period is negligible to the taxpayer, and the benefit of job creation is enormous.” A statewide program is expected to initially create 3,500 private-sector jobs for energy auditors and retrofit installers alone. As Rep. Clyburn emphasized, “these are jobs that cannot be exported.”


The Environmental and Energy Study Institute ( ) is a non-profit organization founded in 1984 by a bipartisan Congressional caucus dedicated to finding innovative environmental and energy solutions. EESI works to protect the climate and ensure a healthy, secure, and sustainable future for America through policymaker education, coalition building, and policy development in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy, agriculture, forestry, transportation, buildings, and urban planning.

The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, Inc. is the state association of independent, member-owned electric cooperatives. More than 1.5 million South Carolinians in all 46 counties use power provided by electric cooperatives. Together, the co-ops operate the state’s largest electric power system with more than 70,000 miles of power lines across 70 percent of the state. More information is available at .

Central Electric Power Cooperative was organized in 1948. Central, acting as an aggregator of energy requirements of the cooperatives, negotiates energy supply arrangements and transmits that energy to the cooperatives. Central is one of the largest such cooperatives in the U.S. Sales in 2009 exceeded $1 billion.

The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation ( ) is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research and the prevention of child abuse, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The foundation’s Environment Program focuses on enabling communities to protect and manage wildlife habitat and create efficient built environments.