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Worcester Energy Offering Thousands in Rebates for Home Upgrades

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

 

The city's municipal energy efficiency program is putting up to $5,000 in the pockets of Worcester property owners for energy improvements to their homes under Worcester Energy's Residential Rebate Pilot.

A total of $600,000 in grant funds have been made available, and officials expect that money to be shared among 150 to 200 successful applicants.

With energy costs continuing to rise, said Program Director John Odell, the Residential Rebate Pilot might be the perfect opportunity to take action.

"If you always thought that you needed to do something but you just didn't think you could afford doing it, between the existing utility incentives and what we can offer on top of that, you may now be able to afford to do things that you just couldn't do before."

Green Communities Grants

Worcester Energy, a product of they city's Executive Office of Economic Development and administered by the Division of Planning & Regulatory Services, got its start after the city was one of the first 35 municipalities to earn the Commonwealth's Green Community designation in 2010.

Since then, that number has grown to 103 designated Green Communities, receiving a total of more than $23 million in state grants.

According to Odell, once the city became eligible for a share of those state funds, it submitted two grant applications, one to spread the word about energy efficiency in general, and the other much larger share of the request to fund a program that would help property owners and residents in 1- to 4-family units lower their energy costs.

Odell said the $600,000 awarded to Worcester Energy for its Residential Rebate Pilot could be applied to standard upgrades for high-efficiency heating or cooling systems, high efficiecny hot water systems, wall and attic insulation, as wel as upgrades to home lighting systems, but more adventures energy-saving measures are on the table, too.

"We'll even look at other items that are not so typical as long as the simple payback is less than 10 years," he said, noting that windows and solar panels rarely make the cut.

The rebate amounts will vary based on Home Energy Rating System (HERS) tests performed before and after the upgrades. Residences scoring 90 or above on the 250-point scale will be eligible for a maximum rebate of $3,000 on 50 percent of the total costs after utility incentives. That number jumps up to $4,000 for residences with post-intallation scores between 80 and 90 and to $5,000 for those dwellings with scores of 80 or less.

Eligible residential buildings will have four or fewer dwelling units and the energy-efficiency and conservation measures must have a simple payback of 10 years or less, including eligible incentives from utility companies as well.

"The demand that we're seeing out there is starting to build," Odell said.

Planning for a Green Future

While the recently launched pilot program will only cover about 200 of the estimated 40,000 applicable units in Worcester, it will go a long way toward helping officials develop a better picture of what kind of energy solutions would work best for the city.

"Part of the reason we're doing this is not only becuase we want to get this out for folks but also because this is the first time we'll be able to really have a database of some of the most prevalent housing stock in Worcester," said Odell.

Earlier this year, Worcester Energy conducted a Small Business Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Assessment Pilot that also will be used to inform what the program can do for small business owners as officials work through the data.

Odell said that more rebate programs could be in the pipeline or Worcester Energy may work on joining forces with utility companies to deliver beter savings and efficiency.

"We don't know exactly where this is going, but we know we need the data to figure that out."

The funding for the Residential Rebate Pilot is available on a first come, first serve basis, and Odell encouraged residents to visit WorcesterEnergy.org to download an application or call 508-799-1400 ext. 260 and ask for the Worcester Energy Program Residential Pilot.

 

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