Huntsville Utilities (HU) ramped up its efforts in the fall of 2015 working with volunteers, local leaders, residents, TVA, and local media outlets to help create a more efficient community. The “Huntsville Extreme Energy Makeover” (HEEM) project helps residents in Madison County that are of limited means to significantly reduce energy waste, increase efficiency and reduce monthly expenses. TVA awarded HU $11.7M in grant funds for this program. Help not only includes information, education, and recommendations, but also pays for the physical improvements designed to reduce air infiltration, appliance efficiencies, insulation levels, and window integrity. All homes improved through this project are expected to see reductions in energy consumption and related expenses of at least 25%. The utility is able to invest up to $1,000 per square foot in order to achieve its goal.
The HEEM Project was conceptualized and is largely funded by Huntsville Utilities’ long time supplier and partner, TVA. Huntsville Utilities and their network of quality contractors are excited to be contributing participants. Some of the basic requirements to be qualified for this project are: 1) Home must be owner occupied, 2) electric heated home, 3) the age of the home is twenty years or older and 4) proof of annual incomes below very low income per HUD Income documentation system for Madison County. The opportunity to apply for the HEEM project has been well publicized to the community.
HEEM was not the only project directed toward assisting the low-income community. Nexus Energy Center began its Comfort Project in early 2015 providing upgrades to 16 homes with 32% improvement in infiltration rates. These one-time investments provided by TVA and Huntsville Utilities (HEEM), TARCOG and Nexus (Comfort Project) are making a significant difference in the financial lives of its customers for many years to come. Plans to sustain the program are in development including
- (1) 1% interest loans now available through traditional lenders,
- (2) on-bill financing program via HU in 2017, and
- (3) a second project funded by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network
(USDN) Innovation Fund in 2016/17. The Innovation in Equity and Energy in the Southeast project seeks to improve how to quantity the economic impact of energy efficiency on low-income families’ and their quality of life. This project is a partnership with the Southeastern Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA), the Partnership for Southern Equity (PSA), and the Southeastern Sustainability Directors Network (SSDN). Eight southeastern communities are participating including: Atlanta, Charlotte, Knoxville, Fayetteville, Sarasota County, Memphis and Durham.
The Huntsville GUEP Team look forward to continuation of these programs and to the results of the USDN project. Showing the impact of energy efficiency on a community’s overall health and well-being will aid in integrating efficiency into the matrix of daily life for both its municipality and local residents.