City gets grant for energy efficiency

COVINGTON -- The city of Covington has been awarded a $300,000 grant for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program.

The city plans to use the money, administered by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, to help residents make their homes more energy efficient and for energy efficient upgrades at City Hall.

Utilities Director Bill Meecham said the grant will provide seed money to start an on-bill financing program.

"Citizens could come to the city to get loans for the purpose of improving insulation in their houses or replacing old, inefficient furnaces or putting in central heating for the first time," Meecham said. "They could finance it on their utility bills at a low rate, possibly nothing more than a service charge. It would be a line item on their utility bill. It would save them from going to a loan company and save a good bit of the financing cost."

Once the loan is paid off, residents would see a savings on energy costs. The money would be placed into a revolving loan fund to assist other residents.

The city has applied for an additional grant through GEFA specifically to fund the on-bill financing program, but has yet to hear the results of that application, Meecham said.

"There's a lot of need for people to improve the quality of home insulation and heating systems out there," he said.

The city may also expand its rebate program for residents who install energy-efficient appliances, he said.

"A lot of this is premature. We will more than likely form a committee at the city on just how we want to handle this," Meecham said.

Finally, the city is planning to make energy efficient upgrades to the interior and exterior lighting at City Hall and replace existing water heaters with a rooftop solar water heater system.

GEFA awarded small and medium-sized cities and counties a total of $13.3 million in grants, benefiting 64 communities.

The funds will help local governments meet Gov. Sonny Perdue's Energy Challenge. In April 2008, Perdue committed Georgia's state agencies to reduce energy consumption 15 percent and challenged Georgia businesses, local governments and residents to do the same.

"Investment in energy efficient infrastructure creates jobs, promotes economic development and increases our citizens' quality of life," Perdue said in a press release. "Financing renewable energy projects encourages good stewardship of our environment."

Since the passage of the ARRA in February 2009, GEFA has awarded $185 million in stimulus funds for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.