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Low-income weatherization program resumes, expands
By Tracy Idell Hamilton on September 19, 2012
In February, CPS Energy and the City of San Antonio weatherized its 3,320th home, using the last of the federal stimulus money that flowed to cities across the country in an effort to save energy, money and boost local economies.
The jointly-managed program known as Casa Verde was one of the most successful in Texas, ultimately receving another $4.1 million on top of the $12.4 million it was originally allocated.
Following that success, CPS Energy today is kicking off its own weatherization program, continuing under the Casa Verde name, with the goal of adding insulation, solar screens, weather stripping and caulking to the homes of more than 1,600 low-income residents by January of next year.
And that’s just the beginning: CPS Energy has earmarked $156 million for weatherization through 2020 — enough to weatherize more than 35,000 homes.
The money comes from STEP, or Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan, the utility’s ambitious effort to save 771 megawatts of power, the equivalent of a power plant that wouldn’t need to be built, by 2020. The utility has earmarked roughly $849 million for STEP, which is funded with a small surcharge in utility bills. STEP also funds CPS Energy’s popular residential rebate programs for everything from ENERGY STAR appliances to insulation, air conditioning and rooftop solar as well as commercial rebates.
Just as the federal program did, the new Casa Verde focuses on low-income residents, offering free weatherization measures meant to save money and energy. Income requirements and application information can be found here.
“Our low-income customers help contribute towards STEP,” said Maria Koudouris, senior vice-president of customer service and gas delivery. “Qualifying for and receiving the benefits of weatherization increases the energy efficiency in their homes. It’s a win-win situation in that the weatherization measures help reduce our customers’ utility bills, and the saved energy is credited towards the 771MW STEP goal.”
Increased employment was another goal of the federal program; the hundreds of weatherization workers locally hired and trained under that program will now have work through 2020. Mac Rattan of M&M Weatherization said he’s recruiting once again.
Rattan said CPS has some new technology in place under the new program, but for the most part, worked out the major kinks under the federal program.
“The city of San Antonio and CPS Energy were wise to use stimulus money first to learn best practices,” he said.
CPS Energy will continue to work with COPS/Metro Alliance, a long-standing coalition of churches and schools that works on behalf of low-income families, to get eligible customers signed up for Casa Verde.
“People really need the help,” said member Gloria Mora of St. Leo’s parish. “But it also saves energy, so it benefits the whole city.”
That’s the goal of STEP, to save customers millions of dollars that would go toward building a new power plant. The last plant CPS Energy built was the Spruce 2 coal plant, which cost $1 billion, and likely would cost even more today.