Residents in the Ashe County now have a new way to find out how to save energy, and in turn, money.
Appalachian Voices, a Boone-based environmental nonprofit, has created a website to provide information about home energy loan programs offered by local businesses and electric utility companies.
“We developed (the website) as an educational resource for residents across the Southeast to learn about energy efficiency and how it can benefit them,” said Rory McIlmoil, the energy policy director for Appalachian Voices.
Deemed the “Energy Savings Action Center,” the website launched on Wednesday, Dec. 11 as part of the nonprofit’s Energy Savings for Appalachia Campaign. The site will help users learn basic tips for improving home efficiency for little-to-no costs.
McIlmoil said the campaign started in April of this year.
“The primary goal of the campaign is to work with rural electric co-ops in the Appalachian region, starting with North Carolina and Tennessee, to try and develop on-bill financing loan programs for residential efficiency improvement,” he said.
The website expands from the two states, providing information to six additional states including Virginia, West Virginia and South Carolina. This region of the country has the largest untapped energy-efficiency resource, covering 29 percent of the nation’s total potential.
McIlmoil said that rural areas of Appalachia are less efficient than other areas, accounting for wasted energy.
“For residents in Ashe County, Blue Ridge (Electrical Membership Corp.) is one of the larger, more financially stable electric co-ops in the region,” he said. “They have a lot more capacity to do more for their residents in terms of supporting comprehensive home energy improvements.”
For Ashe County, this would reduce home energy costs for residents. Those interested can go online to www.appvoices.org/saveenergy/ and see the different options available in the area.
The website provides a list of local businesses that provide home energy audits, weatherization, insulation and other improvements that will help cut down costs.
“We really want to promote local energy servicing companies, so first of all residents are aware of the companies that exist in their area, but also because a goal of our program is to increase economic opportunity through energy efficiency by increasing demand of these services,” McIlmoil said.
Although the site is new, McIlmoil said the response so far has been steady. Appalachian Voices hopes more local businesses will sign up through the site.
“We would like more businesses to sign on through the Action Center so we can promote their business and contact them once we have these home energy loan programs put into place,” he said.
The website was launched following an announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that $250 million will be available to electrical co-ops annually for energy efficiency programs.
The website also allows for users to submit letters to their utility companies through the site, for more information about how to make their homes more energy efficient.
“There will be a number of other resources (available), but the primary function of the website is to empower residents to promote or encourage home energy loan programs through their electric utilities,” McIlmoil said.
While the primary focus has been in N.C. and Tennessee, McIlmoil said the group plans to also start working in Virginia in the coming months.
“Wherever it makes sense to run our campaign, that is where we will focus,” he said.