Whole house Stimulas funds mentioned in Press-Enterprise

October 12, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Some local governments have reportedly been slow to spend federal stimulus funds, but Riverside officials say they’ve bucked the trend and helped more than 230 homeowners save energy

The city’s public utility has spent close to 95 percent of the $714,000 in stimulus money it allotted to a home energy-efficiency program, and the remaining $40,000 has already been spoken for, according to city data.

Riverside Public Utilities General Manager David Wright will ask the City Council today to continue the “whole house” rebate program using $600,000 in special funds from city and state-required surcharges on utility bills. “It’s been one of the most successful programs weve ever had,” Wright said.The program gives homeowners points for energy and water efficiency upgrades such as insulation, fluorescent light bulbs and low-flow toilets. Doing more improvements earns more points, which multiplies the amount of rebate dollars a homeowner can get back. To make the money last longer, Wright recommends knocking down the top rebate bracket from 350 percent to 250 percent of the listed rebate. The per-customer cap on rebates will stay at $7,000 per year. Wright said the city already offered separate rebates for fixes such as insulation and energy-saving appliances, but the “whole house” program packaged them together and gave people an incentive to make four or five improvements instead of one or two. Customers like Todd Runkle considered it a challenge to see how many points they could earn. Runkle, who lives in the Lake Hills area, said he’d been making minor improvements to his 1979 home and thinking about doing more.



When he needed a new washer, a utilities worker told him about the whole house program.

 It spurred him and his wife to talk about what else they could do, and they ended up with a rebate of more than $3,500 on about 17 energysaving items, including 

solar attic fans, a refrigerator, and five shade trees — 300 percent of what they could have gotten back without the program.While the cooler summer may have been a factor, Runkle said, his energy bills have gone down more than 30 percent since the improvements. Wright said the money he’s asking the council to devote to the whole house program is money that’s required to be spent on conservation, energy education and assistance for low-income customers, so it can’t be used to lower customer rates. Some funds from individual efficiency rebate programs may be consolidated into the whole house program, so “I don’t expect that will run out of money,” Wright said.  
 Reach Alicia Robinson at 951-368-9461 or arobinson@PE.com


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