BOONE — Appalachian Voices hosted an event to raise awareness about the need for greater investments in energy efficiency in the High Country on Wednesday, July 29 at the Jones House in Boone.
Nearly 50 residents, service organizations and local government officials of Ashe and Watauga counties gathered to listen to community members who have been positively impacted by Appalachian Voices, a regional environmental non-profit organization which promotes electric utility “on-bill energy efficiency finance” programs.
Local residents Zack Dixon, Brooke Walker, Violet Sholer and Mary Ruble all spoke of their need or how they have benefited from home energy improvements.
Sam Zimmerman of Sunny Day Homes, a local business that offers energy efficiency contracting services and Melissa Soto of WAMY, the local Community Action Agency that provides free weatherization and heating improvements for qualified low-income residents, also spoke at the event.
“Even with multiple agencies providing support to local residents, there are still thousands of residents in the High Country who suffer from inefficient housing and as a result, really high energy bills,” Sarah Kellogg, Appalachian Voices N.C. Outreach Coordinator said. “That’s why we are here today, with a wonderful team of staff and volunteers, community volunteers as well as local businesses and service agencies, to talk to High Country residents about the benefits of energy efficiency and specifically how much a residential finance program offered by Blue Ridge Electric could alleviate this problem of high energy bills throughout our communities.”
According to Appalachian Voices, the 2013-14 average energy cost burden for High Country families amounted to eight percent of a family’s gross income. The national average was 2.7 percent in 2012.
During the event, Appalachian Voices presented a folder containing more than 1,000 signatures by High Country residents and a letter from more than 20 local businesses and service agencies supporting an increase in energy efficiency investments through on-bill finance programs.
On-bill financing offers residents a way to pay for energy efficient upgrades to their homes through their electric bills using the savings gained as a result of the energy improvements.
According to Appalachian Voices, such programs provide the best option for addressing high energy costs related to poorly weatherized homes and old, inefficient appliances and for alleviating the impact that energy costs have on low to moderate income residents.
According to Rory Mcllmoil, energy policy director for Appalachian Voices, half of all the housing units in Alleghany, Ashe, Caldwell and Watauga counties are more than 30 years old and result in energy inefficiencies.
Appalachian Voices states that the potential impacts of a Blue Ridge EMC on-bill finance program includes an annual average of 5,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) saved per home, valued at approximately $513 per year.
“Energy waste isn’t just an environmental problem; it’s also, and to a greater extent, an economic problem,” Mcllmoil said. “Here in the High Country we see a high incidence of poverty, lower-than-average family income, a housing stock that is mostly decades old and in need of efficiency improvements and energy costs that for some folks accounts for nearly half of their income in the winter months. Together these issues are having a negative economic impact on the area and is a problem that we need to work together to address.”
For more information about Appalachian Voices, call 828-262-1500 or visit www.appalachianvoices.org.
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers.