Q&A with ECA

Q: Will the State's budget crisis affect any of the new energy programs that you have been writing about on this blog so far this year?

A. Yes. In fact, the Keystone HELP program, which offers a low interest loan or rebate to help homeowners afford energy efficiency improvements to their homes, is in danger of being cut as I write. This is the first and only attempt by Pennsylvania to offer financial incentives that support efficiency home improvements and it is a good program. The Keystone HELP Loan was lauded as one of the nation's most successful state sponsored energy efficiency programs and a model for a national program at a recent Department of Energy meeting in D.C. It has various tiers that correspond to several different interest rates and most importantly it requires that the building industry complete training in efficiency before they participate as contractors in the program. Not only does Keystone HELP make big projects affordable to homeowners, but it also makes a concerted effort to increase the competencies of contractors in this state, a huge bonus. But now, with difficult budget decisions looming, all these positive steps toward greater energy independence, lower energy bills, and fewer emissions are in jeopardy.

The thing that baffles us most about this is that there is almost no political issue hotter right now than "going green" -- President Obama made sure of that. Since his inauguration, the President has made it clear that energy is one of the most important issues on his agenda and he has acted on his words by increasing funding for weatherization and significantly beefing up the federal tax credits for energy efficient home improvements. For a while there, most other politicians followed his lead and no one wanted to be "anti-weatherization." I mean, come on, how can anyone argue against something that makes so much sense -- weatherization reduces the consumer's energy bills, creates jobs, increase energy independence, and shrinks carbon footprints. How could anyone NOT want to support something that makes so much sense in economically troubled times? Not to be cynical, but is this a case where politicians say one thing and do another -- i.e. applaud energy efficiency while refusing to fund the only financial tool available to the average person? Maybe they assume that no one cares to really look at that budget after all.We say, prove them wrong, and let our representatives know just how unhappy we are that after so much waiting for real change on energy issues, they are going to backpedal at the 11th hour. Pennsylvanians need to demand that the state government continue to fund the Keystone HELP program.