CADA program may benefit

Published 9:01 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

One of the most talked about highlights with President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package is the funding earmarked for energy and, in particular, renewable energy.

The stimulus package sets aside approximately $50 billion aimed at ushering in a clean-energy future and includes money or tax credits for Americans to weatherize their homes and purchase hybrid cars.

Funds to upgrade the electricity grid and underwriting renewable energy projects were also allocated.

Five billion dollars are provided to weatherize more than one million low-income homes, reported to save families an average of $350 a year.

Choanoke Area Development Association’s (CADA) weatherization program could be a benefactor of the stimulus package.

CADA Director Sallie Surface said that though the specifics of the legislation is not quite known yet on a state and local level, the funds for weatherization may help secure more families’ involvement in the program and encouraged interested parties to apply.

“It should help out local families in increasing the income eligibility, more people could qualify for the program,” she said.

Surface said that income eligibility could rise from 150 percent of poverty to 200 percent.

The CADA weatherization program involves having an energy audit on a residence in order to see how to improve the energy efficiency of that home.

Utility history of the home is required for CADA to study. Priority clients include senior citizens, people with disabilities and homes with small children.

Higher-income families can benefit from funds earmarked especially for weatherization, which if improvements are made to their home, expanded tax credits are allowed with the stimulus package.

Eleven billion dollars are allotted to upgrade the nationwide transmission grid to get renewable energy from rural areas to cities and digitize the electric grid to prevent power outages.

In a Feb. 2 interview, before the stimulus package was passed into law, Roanoke Electric Cooperative (REC) Vice President and CEO Curtis Wynn encouraged citizens to ask where they stand when it comes to renewable energy methods being implemented.

“Right now electric utilities are faced with what might come about with legislative action on the federal level to deal with climate control,” he said in that interview. “It is quite critical that our legislators and our president hear the voices of the (REC) members and that there has to be a balance in their actions.”

North Carolina Electric Cooperatives (along with REC) engaged in a letter writing campaign called “Our Energy, Our Future.”

The campaign asked members and citizens alike to emphasize three questions, including:

What are the legislators’ plans to make sure electricity needed is provided as efforts are made to reduce green house gas emissions?

What are legislators’ doing to fully fund research required to make emission free electric plants an affordable reality?

What will they do to make electricity affordable?

“We understand that climate change and climate control is important but it is equally important that they understand the results it will have on the economy and jobs and most importantly the cost of electricity for the everyday citizen,” he said “The changes that are being contemplated are definitely going to cost money and our members, especially the members in our region, cannot afford to have dramatic increases in their utility bill as a result of climate change legislation.”