Local view: Obama's green jobs make their way to Duluth
Bringing $1.5 million to Duluth is a big deal. Turning that money into a program that creates jobs, helps save residents potentially millions in energy bills and keeps climate-changing pollution from the atmosphere is a true accomplishment. Thank...
Bringing $1.5 million to Duluth is a big deal. Turning that money into a program that creates jobs, helps save residents potentially millions in energy bills and keeps climate-changing pollution from the atmosphere is a true accomplishment. Thanks to the work of the Duluth Energy Efficiency Team, I believe we in Duluth can look forward to that accomplishment.
The economic recession has not spared Duluth, and an opportunity to create or sustain jobs is an opportunity not to be missed. Many households are thinking about how they could save money in energy costs but don't know who to contact to help prioritize and complete the appropriate work.
This is the opportunity: We need experts who can determine the best ways for households to save money and energy, and we need people skilled in completing the actual work. Those are jobs, and jobs that by their nature are local. And the work completed by those jobs will help keep more money -- your money -- in your pocket and in the local economy.
I am proud to have helped create the Duluth Energy Efficiency Team. With the leadership of state Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, we won $1.5 million from the state Legislature this session to help seed a revolving energy efficiency loan fund. The $1.5 million will help make efficiency work accessible to people of all incomes. Insulation, air sealing, and other common energy efficiency improvements are not overly expensive, but upfront costs can be more than many people can afford. This loan pool provides Duluthians of all means very low-interest loans to improve the quality of their homes, save money, and reduce their energy consumption.
What is perhaps most innovative about this program is how it balances energy savings with the payback of the loan. Pilot studies for this program indicate that with relatively simple improvements, the average household can save between 20 percent and
30 percent of its annual energy usage. The idea will be to balance the loan payments as closely as possible with those energy savings so participants' overall monthly expenses change minimally. And once the loan is paid back, they'll continue to benefit from lower energy costs.
This is, however, only a start. The $1.5 million will allow the program to get off the ground, but it isn't enough to help every household in Duluth in the immediate future. Because resources are limited, everything about this plan is based on achieving the best return on investment. This program is science-based and designed to create benefits financially and environmentally for both the individual and the community. We do this by supporting our local economy and reducing our energy demands. I will continue to push efforts to grow our financial resources so that efficiency work is available to more and more of us.
While limited, this program is proof that even in tough times there are opportunities. Ideas like this can lay the groundwork for more opportunity and a chance to put Duluth at the front edge of new ideas.
I have been inspired and proud to be part this collaborative effort to tie together economic development, job growth and the protection of our atmosphere. Economic development at its best is creative, collaborative, and forward-thinking. This program brings forth what is best in Duluth and offers an example of how we can move forward when we work together. Our success will combine the efforts of the Obama administration, the city, private foundations, local nonprofits and business.
The team of people that made it happen deserves thanks.
With the support of Mayor Don Ness and the leadership of state Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, the Duluth Energy Efficiency Team is:
Tony Cuneo of the AH Zeppa Family Foundation and a member of the Duluth City Council
Keith Hamre, manager of the Duluth Community Development Office
Tina Koecher, CIP administrator for Minnesota Power
Pam Kramer, executive director of Duluth Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Emily Larson, coordinator of Duluth at Work
Eric Schlacks, gas and energy coordinator for Comfort Systems
Jodi Slick, executive director of Common Ground Construction
Dean Talbott, residential CIP program specialist for Minnesota Power
Tony Cuneo is a member of the Duluth Energy Efficiency Team and is a Duluth city councilor.