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.