‘Energy Smart’ program revised, will launch in January | VailDaily.com

‘Energy Smart’ program revised, will launch in January

EAGLE, Colorado – When voters approved an “Energy Smart” loan program for the county in 2009, officials hoped to boost energy efficiency in the county and give a boost to the county’s slumping construction industry. Circumstances changed.

The big idea – a loan program that would fund improvements, with repayments tacked on to residents’ property tax bills – has been held up for much of this year. The Federal National Mortgage Association – Fannie Mae – and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation – Freddie Mac – announced they wouldn’t re-purchase mortgages that had the loans attached to the property tax bills. Heavy political pressure so far hasn’t changed that position, so those in the “smart loan” business have had to adjust.

In Eagle County – as well as Pitkin and Gunnison counties, which are partners in the program – those changes will use state and federal grant money to establish programs for smaller projects, and to establish offices homeowners can use to learn about various tax credit and rebate programs for energy-efficient renovations.

The program, set to launch Jan. 1, will establish an “energy resource” office at The Valley Home Store, which already coordinates most of the affordable housing programs in the valley.

Adam Palmer, the county planner in charge of the “Energy Smart” project, said those offices will use a nearly $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to meet an ambitious goal – wring 20 percent in efficiency improvements from 10 percent of the three counties’ homes.

Among other things, the grant will help set up a revolving loan fund, and put more than $825,000 toward home “energy assessments” to determine what projects homeowners could tackle first to make their homes more efficient.

While Eagle, Pitkin and Gunnison counties are part of a federal pilot program, that program will only run for three years. Commissioner Jon Stavney asked what will happen to the program when the grant money runs out.

“Our vision is to create a self-sustaining program,” Palmer said. That’s probably going to happen, in part, through a 1 percent origination fee for loans, he said.

Stavney said he’s eager to see how the “resource center” idea comes together. “We want to really make it simple,” Stavney said. “A lot of the pieces to this have been floating around for years.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.

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