Historic Funding Comes to Coal Communities – Time to Invest in Energy Savings | Opinion
Local governments in eastern Kentucky have faced budget deficits since 2012 due to lower starting taxes on coal and people. The COVID-19 crisis has led to a further decline in tax revenue, while other costs have risen significantly. All of these factors made it very difficult for local governments in Eastern Kentucky to make ends meet. However, new historic investments are coming to coal communities through recent federal initiatives. If invested wisely, this funding could help local governments keep their budgets in the dark for years to come.
From libraries and senior citizens’ centers to water treatment plants and courthouses, local governments in eastern Kentucky maintain many buildings. The Mountain Association’s Energy Program has worked with government officials for years on energy efficiency and solar energy projects that generate thousands of dollars in savings each year. These projects range from smaller projects, such as lighting and thermostat upgrades, to larger projects, such as HVAC upgrades and installing solar panels.
Many communities were able to save without asking for funding or investing a dime. For example, the Elliott County Seniors’ Center is now saving $ 1,100 per year after the Mountain Association’s free billing review service discovered that they were wrongly billed sales tax and that ‘a simple change of rate class would resolve the error. Likewise, the Letcher County Public Library was able to obtain a refund of $ 2,280 of overpaid sales tax. And the Lee County Courthouse is now saving more than $ 20,000 a year after asking for a correction to the way they were billed for a portion of their electrical service from Kentucky Utilities. Even if no billing errors are detected, a billing analysis shows how buildings are using electricity and can highlight simple changes that can reduce usage, or even reveal bigger issues that need to be addressed.
Today, thanks to new funding, many of our clients can finally consider carrying out larger energy projects that can make a substantial difference to their bottom line. President Biden has pledged to mobilize the full strength of the federal government to support the economic transition of energy communities. He led his Interagency Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization working group to identify resources across a wide range of federal agencies. This includes funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure law, as well as the Build Back Better bill that has passed the House and awaits Senate action.
We’re ready to help any local government in Eastern Kentucky that wants to access new federal funds to start saving on their energy bills. Our energy services are currently free to local governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations with funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Economic Development Administration, the Kentucky Office of Energy Policy, and the Small Business Administration. . funds.
From 2010 to 2013, we worked with the towns of Harlan, Lynch and Berea, and the County of Knott, to apply for US funding for recovery and reinvestment through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants program. While communities with populations over 50,000 received non-competitive funds, smaller communities had to apply and compete for these funds. We are proud to have helped bring approximately $ 500,000 to these communities to finance their energy conservation projects.
Investing in savings will help local governments maintain essential functions and programs, like EMS services and infrastructure update and security, which are part of the responsibility to better manage our taxpayers’ money.
Carrie Ray is the Energy Programs Coordinator at the Mountain Association. She can be contacted by email at [email protected]