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Friday, April 23, 2010

Salem Sustainability Grant: Opportunity compacted and trashed

Sad -- Salem scored some stimulus money ... not a huge pile, but a tidy sum ($1.521 million) ... for energy efficiency and conservation projects.

But a good chunk of the money -- more than 15% -- is going in the wrong direction.

Only a hair under 10% is going to the most important piece of all, a revolving loan fund to help Salem residents pay for energy efficiency improvements that, long term, pay for themselves many times over.

Almost as much of the money ($137k) is going to be squandered on the solar-powered trash compactor gadgets like the one near the Court St. side of the Capitol -- in other words, badly wasted.

Just as bad, the plan is to take another $90,000 and spend it on "transportation network improvements" --- in other words, we're going to blow $90k fighting against precisely the projects that we just funded with another $100 million . . . .

Hey, there's an idea! Use some of the $100,000,000 from the transportation bond to think about transportation system improvements and put the $90,000 into the revolving loan fund -- and spend a little on a system that lets people pay for energy improvements out of the energy savings that they realize with the debt staying with the property if they move. Such a system (called "Pay As You Save" or PAYS (r) in some places) is being used with great success in Berkeley, CA, with its "FIRST" (Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology) program, where the city helps residents make the improvements and then repay the loans with the savings realized.

We could more than double the size of the revolving loan fund and help Salem residents keep more of their money here at work creating jobs in Salem if we put the $90k and the $137k into the loan fund . . . or we can buy some high-tech trash bins, even as we're laying off park workers. Dumb.

Money/energy saving workshop

ClothespinningThe clothesline -- one of the fastest-payback energy-saving devices of all. Image by Professor Bop via Flickr

This is probably a couple hours well-spent for anyone who hasn't had a complete energy audit done on their home (owned or not -- renters have energy bills too!) in the last five years -- technology is changing fast.

Salem and Keizer residents are invited to a free home energy workshop from 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at 3123 Broadway NE, just north of Salem Parkway.

The workshop, about how to save money and reduce a home's carbon footprint, comes with a brunch buffet and a copy of the book "Cut Your Energy Bills Now" by Bruce Harley.

Participants will learn more about basic building science and energy use in the home; local and regional energy sources and potential impacts; low-cost and no-cost tips to save energy; impacts of lifestyle choices; and actions that can improve the safety, comfort and efficiency of a home.

It is sponsored by NW Natural and Energy Trust of Oregon.

You must register with Bruce Anderson at (503) 371-0580 or bea@nwnatural.com or online at energytrust.org under events and education.

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