Thanks to the hard work of the EERE project management team, residents of one county in a Southeastern state are finding it easier to save energy and lower their utility bills. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a county there received $2.9 million through DOE’s ‘General Innovation Fund’, a part of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program.  The General Innovation Fund supports investments through innovative deployment strategies.

The DOE Project Officer and Account Manager worked with the county to help create and properly structure a new non-profit organization funded by the award. The non-profit will administer a financial assistance program to provide residents with low-interest loans for making energy efficiency improvements to their homes. Homeowners can also install solar thermal water heating or solar photovoltaic systems for electricity generation, after taking energy efficiency measures first. The EERE project management team worked with the county, structuring the program to comply with EECBG guidance. The EERE project team met with county officials on-site, linked them to financial experts, and provided technical review and feedback on the proposed non-profit’s design. The DOE Financing Technical Assistance team provided additional input and expertise on a loan fund and plans to obtain U.S. Department of Treasury approval to establish a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) focused on financing clean energy projects.  

Launched in February 2011, the program has made initial loans to homeowners, creating jobs in the home energy efficiency retrofit industry, and lowering energy bills for county residents participating in the program. The project is also exploring ways to bring solar manufacturing to the region, encouraging county leaders and residents to start seeing clean energy as one path to economic recovery. The DOE project management team’s expertise and effective teamwork were essential to the successful launch of the loan program, which could be just the beginning of a more secure energy future for the Southeast.