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Archive for Saturday, August 6, 2011

Energy program is smart investment

August 6, 2011

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The Efficiency Kansas home energy audit program is exactly the sort of public-private partnership that we should be pursuing as we look for ways to improve the economy in our state. It is not a handout. It is not an expansion of big government. Efficiency Kansas is a smart way to create jobs and promote small business while improving the lives, homes and limited budgets of Kansans across the state.

With only a few public employees running the program, it has provided the opportunity for dozens of local energy auditors to grow their own small businesses. It has put contractors to work. It has provided the opportunity for hundreds of Kansans to make improvements on their homes that will help them reduce their monthly utility bills and increase the value and comfort of their homes. It reduces the need to build new coal plants to meet the demand for electricity. All the while, it reduces the pollution going into our local air and water and shrinks our carbon footprint.

This program has been ramping up over the past year. Auditors have been hiring and training new employees to meet the demand they expected to see from the $32 million of federal stimulus funds for a revolving loan program to help residents make energy efficiency improvements on their homes. This loan fund would provide Kansans a renewable source of funding. As the efficiency loans are repaid with savings on customers’ energy bills, they can be loaned out again to more households for decades to come.

But the recent move by the Brownback administration to gut the loan fund has saddled a rising industry with major uncertainty. It has also left Kansans who have already had audits and were ready to make major improvements to reduce their energy consumption sorely disappointed. Even more, it will erase economic opportunity, energy efficiency and monetary savings now and long into the future. This move will reduce jobs, weaken small businesses, increase household living costs and generate more pollution for our air, lakes and rivers.

The Brownback administration has diverted most of the money to the biofuel industry, a sector that has incredible levels of government support while providing little benefit for individuals or the environment. This is simply not the time to take money away from small businesses and homeowners in order to give even more subsidies to programs with questionable merit.

This decision is one that should be condemned by liberals and conservatives alike. Efficiency Kansas exemplifies the pragmatic ideals that all Kansans can agree upon and should be hailed as a flagship model of public-private partnership, not gutted at the very moment it is taking off.

— Trisha Shrum of Lawrence is a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and has worked with Efficiency Kansas as part of her research on energy-efficiency economics.

Comments

stnick 2 years, 8 months ago

Sigmund,

You just trying to argue - then get a life. You like paying more to the electric co and gas company then you need to - fine.

I got an audit in Feb. said I needed to insulate my basement, walls, add to attic and air seal. New furnace / ac and mechanical ventilation. Took me until June to get all the pricing together. Contractor appts. review quotes, talk to auditor. Sort it all out. etc etc etc. I spend about 2500 per year in my 1960 era house for gas and elec. My loan will be for $12,800 over 15 years. I will add to that $3,474 to use the contractors I wanted to. Total money going to local small businesses (3 in my case) is $15,680. I will pay 73.20 per month to Westar for repayment. I will save about 81.00 per month average between my electric and gas bill. Depends on weather.

What will I get? financing for new furnace, ac. Insulation! I will use less and increase my wife's comfort, our safety and have better indoor air. My auditor told me to make the house breathe where I wanted it to - so I am.

Could I have spent the 16K from my savings, yep! Would I have done so? Without the 60 page report from my energy auditor, probably not. Was it free? Nope! I spent a bunch of hours getting several contractors in, getting their prices and sorting through the stuff - yep time consuming. Westar came out Feb 14 with an e-mail about the program and I scheduled an audit the next week. Then It took me until July to get my prices and a final approval on the funding. If it takes time, then perhaps you should try it yourself, and quit asking questions here.

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2 years, 8 months ago

-Sigmund

You said:

"No matter how "good" the program, if Kansans were not making use of the programs, for whatever reason, then I am not sure what it makes sense keeping the program when other programs have greater participation and resources (tax payer dollars) are limited."

The funds were part of the Federal Stimulus and were designed to support the program. How can you say diverting the funds to biofuel (big oil) in SW KS is diverting the fund to a program with greater participation.

"Meaning total monthly cash outflow is not impacted but the homeowner has added more debt. Why is the State of Kansas even involved in the process? As far as I can see the program is only useful to those who are not credit worthy to begin with and the State is there only to back the loans in case of default."

True, the consumer has more debt, but in the long run that debt disappears and the savings continue. The program is (was) open to anyone, even you. I'm surprised you didn't avail yourself of the opportunity.

The Gov's actions closed that window and in so doing stopped some business and jobs in Kansas. One of his goals is to create jobs. I have yet to see him create more jobs than he's destroyed.

I stand by my comment above: "Typical of The Gov, punish the proletariat and reward the bourgeoisie. Seems to me this is just another example of his saying, 'It's good to be The Gov.' "

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Sigmund 2 years, 8 months ago

KansasConscience (anonymous) says… "It's a good program, not a scam. Home owners pay the energy audit cost, other up front costs, loan initiation fee and the loan (as part of the electric bill)."

No matter how "good" the program, if Kansans were not making use of the programs, for whatever reason, then I am not sure what it makes sense keeping the program when other programs have greater participation and resources (tax payer dollars) are limited.

KansasConscience (anonymous) says…"The savings are designed to lower the electric bill by about the same amount as the loan payment, making it "transparent" to the homeowner."

Meaning total monthly cash outflow is not impacted but the homeowner has added more debt. Why is the State of Kansas even involved in the process? As far as I can see the program is only useful to those who are not credit worthy to begin with and the State is there only to back the loans in case of default. Energy efficiency is a good thing, but not every good thing needs to have the State involvement.

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2 years, 8 months ago

  • Sigmund

bozo didn't look very hard, then. Here's the link, http://www.efficiencykansas.com/

It was active as of 20110807 at 1428.

It's a good program, not a scam. Home owners pay the energy audit cost, other up front costs, loan initiation fee and the loan (as part of the electric bill).

The savings are designed to lower the electric bill by about the same amount as the loan payment, making it "transparent" to the homeowner.

It's a terrible shame The Gov cancelled the program, reallocated (stole) the $32 mil in funds and gave them to big oil. Who else has the money to do biofuel? In fact, if what a recent Hays Post article says is true (http://hayspost.com/2011/07/27/usda-to-support-switchgrass-biofuels-project-in-kansas/), then big oil stands to gain a fair chunk of change. The USDA is supporting 75% of the costs for using switchgrass to convert biofuels, plus 5-years of maintenance costs (don't know how much that will be). Just the project costs will be $128 mil. Not a bad chunk of change.

Typical of The Gov, punish the proletariat and reward the bourgeoisie. I choose those terms as The Gov appears to be waging class warfare in many of his policies and decrees (ruling by fiat). Seems to me this is just another example of his saying, "It's good to be The Gov."

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Sigmund 2 years, 8 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (anonymous) replies… "Looks like the website that used to answer your questions has been taken down."

Perhaps someone supporting or opposing the program can answer then.

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Sigmund 2 years, 8 months ago

I gather the homeowner must incur substantial debt in the form of loans as the scheme appears to depend on early adopters funding a loan pool for later participants. A couple of questions then: 1. What is the upfront costs to the home owner of a energy audit and who pays it? 2. Can someone post a link to the product produced for the homeowner of a energy audit? 3. Does the "savings" to the homeowner include one-time tax credits or deductions (aka as tax loopholes) for purchase of energy efficient items?

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Daffy 2 years, 8 months ago

Exactly. Harvard School of Government. No wonder this opinion is painting this stimulus as a pragmatic flagship of private and government togetherness.

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2 years, 8 months ago

Good OPED Trisha. To the point.

From your piece, "With only a few public employees running the program, it has provided the opportunity for dozens of local energy auditors to grow their own small businesses. It has put contractors to work. It has provided the opportunity for hundreds of Kansans to make improvements on their homes that will help them reduce their monthly utility bills and increase the value and comfort of their homes."

The Gov's gutting of the program causes jobs and business to disappear. Again he's done damage to the state and the economy. I truly hope his reign by fiat is only 1 term. This is not the first time he's done something in this vein. His administration's actions in gutting the fund will definitely cut back economic increases made by small businesses as a result of this program. I know people in Lawrence who won't have a job after the dust settles. (Note to snap, I would have used Brownstripe or Brownshirt, but I don't have access to the nickname generator that you do. Could you please provide a link? Also, Firefox shows "Brownback" as being mispelled, that's probably why people choose another appellation for the Gov.)

"The Brownback administration has diverted most of the money to the biofuel industry, a sector that has incredible levels of government support while providing little benefit for individuals or the environment."

As I understand it, biofuel is simply big oil in another guise. Originally it used grain to generate ethanol, which drove (is driving) up grain prices and hence prices at the grocery. Is this a good thing for Kansas? Farmers earn more, this is true, but then the money comes out of the other hand to pay. It strikes me the only ones coming out ahead is big oil. Further, big oil is being covered 75% by the USDA to develop switch grass (suggested by GWB a long time ago) as a biofuel source. (http://www.kake.com/kansas/headlines/USDA_To_Support_SW_Kansas_Biofuels_Project_126251243.html)

A liberal estimate (nothing to do with politics, so don't jump, OK) places the fund at $32 mil. If that's true, then the money going to big oil is a cool $124 mil. Pretty good chunk of change engineered by the Gov.

In essence, the Gov's actions hurt Kansas small business and benefit big oil. Where is the good for Kansas in that? Is a loss of jobs and business in local economies good for Kansas? Keep in mind this is not just in Lawrence / Douglas County, but the program extended over everywhere covered by Westar. Other electric companies may have had access to the program, but I'm not sure. Is this simply another instance of the Gov's saying, "It's good to be the Gov."

So far, the only defense of the Gov's actions is derision and nothing substantive. I ask the same question that was asked above. "Where are all the Tea Party people and Brownback supporters?" Why don't you support his actions? Haven't you been told what to say yet, or did you misplace your Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 8 months ago

Where are all the Tea Party people and Brownback supporters? Can you not spin this? Seems a little odd that you can't defend this stupid move by one of your wonderful leaders. I know Fox can't tell you what to say, since they aren't going to deal with such a small matter. Surely there is someone you can call to tell you the right talking points. A good program promoting small business and helping out homeowners. Not a handout. Diverted to big business which is already getting big handouts, not loans. Silence from the far right. Real agenda of far right revealed, and they stay silent, hoping no one will notice.

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 8 months ago

I'm insulating my cave with pulped carbon credits.

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Ken Lassman 2 years, 8 months ago

Hey, if you think Efficiency Kansas is a good program (I do) and doesn't deserve gutting (I don't), then do something useful like getting ahold of your representative and state Senator and let them know what you think (I will). Just whining about the sad governance in our state is not enough any more. It's past time to let folks know who are supposed to be representing us that this is not acceptable.

http://www.kslegislature.org/li/

https://governor.ks.gov/contact-the-governor/contact-governor

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 8 months ago

Is there a web app somewhere that keeps generating cutesy variations of the governor's name? You disappointed progressives seem to have an never-ending supply of them.

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Getaroom 2 years, 8 months ago

Brownbackward only cares about fulfilling his Ideologies of Power Over and appeasing the Neo Cons & Tea Party movement for his future bid for the Presidency. This energy audit program is likely toast under the current oppressive dictatorial regime. Typical stuff you know for the Party of NO. But never fear - the already super wealthy are safe, providing millions of jobs, sharing in the bounty and are sound with Brownbackward around. Who needs extra revenue, we all know the super wealthy's money ain't no good in these here parts anyway, except for passing favorable legislation. Woowh! Prayer must work - it is sprinkling in Lawrence right now!! Praise Brownbackward.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

Exactly.

This program was poised to stimulate the creation of thousands of private sector jobs, doing work that will significantly reduce energy consumption.

But I guess Brownback just couldn't resist diverting that relatively small amount of money to his corporate cronies in the Rube Goldbergesque ethanol industry.

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