2017 has been quite the year for the Energy Savings for Appalachia campaign. If you’ve been following our work, you’ll know that our main focus has been to make energy efficiency accessible to members of rural electric cooperatives in East Tennessee and western North Carolina. We’ve been advocating for an inclusive financing program called Pay As You Save (PAYS©) that would allow all families to enjoy lower electric bills, more comfortable and healthy homes, local economic development and the many other benefits of energy efficiency.
And we’re making progress! In Tennessee, we’ve continued to support the exploration of energy efficiency financing among electric co-ops, and if all goes well we could see the launch of the first PAYS© program in the state in 2018. Across the border in North Carolina, Blue Ridge Energy has expanded its energy efficiency loan program, committing another $200,000 to finance energy upgrades in its members’ homes. More than 40 homes have been retrofitted so far, resulting in significant energy savings and fewer carbon emissions.
In both states, we’ve gotten resolutions passed in towns and counties supporting the development of inclusive energy efficiency financing programs. On top of all that, our video explaining the PAYS© model is now in use by two electric cooperatives in the Southeast!
However, we’ve come up against some barriers that have prevented the spread of clean and affordable energy, including co-ops resistant to change and co-op members unaware of their rights. In 2018, we hope to expand our work to include more emphasis on member education and empowerment to address these structural issues and better support members who are engaging in their co-ops’ decision-making processes. This work has already begun in East Tennessee, where our team has been supporting members of Powell Valley Electric Cooperative who are concerned with the co-op’s use of herbicides and other issues.
Last but not least, over the past year, our team has expanded to its largest size yet, with six people split between our Knoxville, Tenn. and Boone, N.C. offices. That doesn’t even include the wonderful community members, interns, volunteers and We Own It Democracy Fellow who we’ve had the privilege to work with. With all of these extra hands on deck, we hope to get even closer to achieving our goals.
We’re in it for the long haul, and we hope you are too, because we couldn’t do it without you!
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From me and the whole Energy Savings for Appalachia team, happy holidays to you and yours!