Energy Efficiency

Fund offers efficiency loans to Holland BPW customers

A residential energy efficiency fund serving customers of Holland, Michigan’s public power utility has issued $1 million in low-interest loans through an on-bill loan program.

The on-bill financing program, the first in Michigan, complements Holland Energy Fund’s 10 percent rebate program for residential energy improvements.

Since the programs started in late 2017, they have sparked about $4 million in energy efficiency investments in the area served by Holland Board of Public Works, according to Anne Saliers, HBPW community energy services manager.

The Holland Energy Fund implements goals set in the city’s Community Energy Plan, a long-range plan that includes a target of cutting annual per capita greenhouse gas emissions to 10 metric tons by 2050 from 24 metric tons in 2010.

The plan calls for renovating the city’s 7,400 single-family homes in two phases. In the first phase, set to run until 2033, homes will be retrofitted with “moderate” measures that will result in the buildings being about 50 percent more efficient. The second phase will use more intense measures to make the homes 66 percent more efficient, according to the plan.

The Holland Energy Fund is financed by a mix of city and utility sources while the loan program is backed by a $3 million line of credit supported by HBPW, which serves about 28,000 customers in the city’s area.

To start the on-bill loan program, the city worked with state lawmakers to change state law so municipal utilities could offer on-bill loans, a process that took about 18 months, according to Saliers.

The fund offers loans for up to $30,000 for up to 15 years for eligible energy efficiency measures.

So far, the average project size is $15,500 with 7.5 efficiency measures, a reflection of thesize and depth of the projects, according to Saliers. Overall, homeowners have spent $3.7 million of their money on the projects, she said.

Eligible efficiency measures include insulation, lighting and rooftop solar as well as upgrades to appliances, air conditioning and heating systems.

Homeowners taking advantage of the Holland Energy Fund are performing deep energy retrofits on their buildings, a move that leads to more savings and benefits instead of doing efficiency upgrades one at a time, Saliers said.

The program is improving Holland’s housing stock, which provides benefits to neighborhoods and the community, according to Saliers.

About 120 projects have received the 10 percent rebate and a little more than half the projects were financed using the on-bill loan program, according to Saliers.

Instead of relying on credit reports and debt-to-equity ratio checks, the fund offers loans to homeowners who have paid their bills for 12 consecutive months on time, a policy aimed at potentially expanding the number of people who can benefit from the program, Saliers said.

In a key development, the Holland Energy Fund received 501(c)3 non-profit status from the Internal Revenue Service earlier this year. The ruling allows the fund to accept tax-deductible donations and solicit grants that are limited to non-profit organizations.