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Originally published: 2014-02-27 10:23:02
Last modified: 2014-02-27 10:23:48

Promote affordable energy

I care deeply about Watauga County, and as a member of Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, I'd like to bring attention to a unique opportunity with energy efficiency. In my own home, we enjoy passive solar heating. Our next house project is an energy audit that will help us identify ways to decrease our propane and electricity use.  And, while I am able to explore these options, I know very well many of my neighbors and friends cannot invest in long-term home upgrades such as energy efficient appliances or insulation. 

Recently, Blue Ridge announced a new program which pulls money from its affiliates and members to subsidize home electricity bills for customers who most need the help. This is a practical short-term solution, but it does not address the long-term issue of rising energy costs. Even when this new program is combined with the other Blue Ridge energy efficiency resources -- an online audit tool and a rebate program for home audits -- their offerings pale in comparison to programs offered by other North Carolina cooperatives

Recently, close friends told me that Blue Ridge had turned off their power during a holiday due to an inadequate payment. Blue Ridge Electric cannot shirk away its responsibility to provide long-term solutions for all of their members. These members deserve resources, provided by their utility, to install comprehensive home efficiency upgrades and retrofits. 

I propose Blue Ridge Electric enact an on-bill financing program. This allows members to receive low-interest loans to pay for home energy efficiency upgrades. Members save money immediately and use those savings to repay the loan through their electric bill. An affordable loan, tied to the home, can open up a multitude of energy saving options for families struggling to keep their house warm. 

A community presentation about energy efficiency will be held at 10:30 a.m. March 1 at the Jones House Community Center. As a community, we can come together to promote affordable energy for all Blue Ridge members. 

Kara Dodson, field coordinator, Appalachian Voices