Michigan Municipal League
By Jim Dulzo
Sandra Keirnan is proud of her hometown of Holland, and not just for its famous tulips and stellar downtown. She’s also pleased about how the city helped remake her 125-year-old house. Financed by the Holland Energy Fund (HEF), part of the city’s new, pioneering Home Energy Retrofit Program, and guided by that program’s advisor, Keirnan hired contractors to transform her place from a drafty, expensive-to-operate building into a home that’s cozy on cold days and cool on hot ones, with much lower energy bills.
She’s not alone. Last year, the program’s first 56 homeowners invested more than $1 million in efficiency projects, about $18,000 each. The work could cut their energy use by up to 35 percent—and improve some of the city’s aging housing stock. The HEF is winning plaudits in Lansing. It has already drawn two nominations for the Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards—one for innovative financing, and another for Keirnan’s use of it for her ambitious project, which doubled her home’s efficiency rating.
Community Energy Plan
All of this activity stems from Holland’s visionary, 40-year, Community Energy Plan (CEP), which aims to make the community a world leader in efficiency and cleaner, lower-cost power generation, which local officials see as key to their community’s
Using the HEF made it easy for Keirnan on two fronts—getting her five-figure loan and paying it off. Her note shows up on her utility bill, but thanks to energy savings from her deep retrofit—exterior wall sealing, insulation, new water heater, furnace, A/C, and windows—her bills for electricity, gas, and the loan are, on an annual basis, about what she previously paid for just her electricity and gas. Innovative Financing Keirnan was the first resident to get a loan from the Holland Energy Fund.
The On-Bill Loan Program is something so unusual that it required a new state law allowing organizations like the Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW) to provide capital for energy loans.