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City gets $300K energy efficiency grant
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The City of Covington received $300,000 in stimulus money to help residents make their homes more energy efficient.
The Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority awarded $13.3 million in energy efficiency and conservation grants to 64 Georgia cities and counties.

City Utility Director Bill Meecham said Covington will likely use its money to start an on-bill financing program for homeowners who want to make their homes more energy efficient.

However, Meecham said the city is also hoping to receive some other energy efficiency monies, so it will plan an overall strategy before starting the on-bill financing program.

The program would allow residents to borrow money from the city’s $300,000 grant fund at a very low interest rate, often less than 1 percent. The money would be used to buy new energy efficient appliances or make building improvements, like adding insulation, caulking cracks or putting in double-paned windows.

The loan would be paid back in small monthly installments that would be added to the resident’s utility bill. The idea is that the energy savings would offset much of the extra bill cost, and then once the loan is paid off, the resident would start to see significant energy savings.

In addition, as the loan is paid off, the money will go back into the grant fund and can then be loaned out to more customers. City Manager Steve Horton said previously that energy efficiency is becoming ever more important.

“So many homes out there, across the nation, are older homes and were built before insulation was a big deal, when utility costs were cheaper and people didn't think about insulation as much. It wasn't cost effective,” Horton said. “But now with escalating prices, it's much more important for insulation and energy efficiency.”

Meecham and Horton said the city is hoping to get some additional grant money through the Electric Cities of Georgia, an organization of cities which run their own utilities. The group jointly applied for some stimulus money last year and Horton said ECG did receive a grant. Covington will likely receive some of that money, but it is unknown how much it’ll receive or what exactly the money can be used for. A 50 percent match was expected to be required of any participating cities, and last August the city council the use of up to $42,600.

The city also hopes to do other things with the recent $300,000 grant, including expanding the city’s energy audit program. Energy audits are tests conducted by a city utility employee where the employee either walks though and visually examines a building or uses instruments to actually test the performance on the HVAC system and measure how much air is leaking through doors and windows.
Meecham said the city is planning to upgrade the lighting outside the city hall and in the city’s equipment area.  Finally, a solar water heating demonstration project is planned at city hall.

For information about the grant, residents can call Meecham at (770) 385-2120 or e-mail him at However, Horton emphasized that no money will be given out until the city actually receives the money, sets up the necessary accounts and plans out its implementation strategy.