Covington to apply for energy efficiency grant

COVINGTON - The city of Covington is joining other municipalities that are members of Electric Cities of Georgia in applying for a grant through the State Energy Program.

As a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Georgia will receive more than $82 million in stimulus funds for its energy program, administered by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority.

GEFA will administer $6 million during a three-year period for energy efficiency programs in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors, according to city of Covington Utilities Director Bill Meecham. Only between two and eight grants will be awarded, Meecham said.

"Because there are a number of utilities that could apply, such as 50 city-operated electric systems, it makes sense to work together with others on a joint application," he said. "We are participating with other city systems, applying jointly through Electric Cities of Georgia."

At least 18 communities, including Griffin, Cartersville, Elberton, Forsyth, Monroe and Acworth, will participate.

The grant will provide funding for enhanced and additional energy audits, energy certification and energy education programs, Meecham said.

The city currently offers energy audits to residents upon request, assessing homes for energy efficiency, and making recommendations on how to reduce consumption and cut costs.

Meecham said those efforts could be expanded with additional funds, as could efforts to assist homeowners and builders in obtaining energy efficient certification requirements for new and existing homes.

The city will be required to contribute matching funds, likely between 20 and 50 percent of the grant award, Meecham said. The City Council recently agreed to match up to $21,300.

The city may also apply for another GEFA program that provides on-bill financing for energy efficient improvements to homes, Meecham said.

On-bill financing would mean the utility would pay for energy efficiency improvements made by customers to their homes. The cost would be recouped over time in the customer's monthly utility bill.

"This is a program that we at Covington like because it would provide funds that we could loan to a homeowner to, for example, add insulation or replace an old furnace," Meecham said. "The city would add the payment to the homeowner's monthly utility bill, which would bring in funds to allow us to make more loans, giving the program a life of its own."