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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Interest in energy-efficiency program picks up

From an article by Sharif Durhams in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Maybe the cash rebates are responsible for the uptick in interest in a City of Milwaukee program designed to help consumers pay for energy-saving home improvements.

Or maybe it was just a cold snap.

In any case, the number of city residents signing up for the Milwaukee Energy Efficiency program, known as Me2, is picking up after a slow start. The program, financed by a federal stimulus grant, has a goal of getting at least 4,500 buildings retrofitted with insulation, more efficient furnaces and other green improvements over the next two years.

So far about a tenth of that number of homeowners - 444 - have paid for the $100 energy assessments that are required for the program since it launched early this year. Ninety-three homeowners have completed the recommended upgrades or are making them.

"Nothing is as fast as you'd like it to be, of course, but we're getting some pickup," said Dan Milbrandt, the chief lending officer for Summit Credit Union.

The credit union, which is providing low-interest loans for the home improvements, has a potential lending pool of $30 million for the program. So far, the credit union has signed off on $260,000 in loans, a figure Milbrandt said bank officials expected to hit this summer.

Since then, the partners in the program - the city, Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp. and Summit - have better coordinated their efforts, Milbrandt said. And the program has added incentives.

Now, anyone who invests at least $2,500 in energy improvements gets a $500 rebate from Me2. Those who make at least $5,000 in improvements get $1,000 back. To get in on the deal, participants have to sign up with a participating contractor and commit to making the improvements by the end of the year, said Erick Shambarger of the City of Milwaukee's Office of Environmental Sustainability.

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