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Austin Energy efficiency rebate program wraps up strong FY2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 by Josh Rosenblatt

The verdict is in on Austin Energy’s FY2010 energy efficiency rebate programs and it’s good. According to Karl Rabago, the utility’s vice president for distributed energy services, 2010 saw “unprecedented demand” for AE’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR rebate program, which provides up to $1,575 in rebates for air conditioning, attic insulation, solar screens, caulking, and weather-stripping. Under the rebate program, homeowners can get back up to 20 percent of their costs for energy efficient renovations.


As Rábago told the Resource Management Commission, by adjusting the Home Performance program and “trimming down some incentives,” he and his colleagues were able to meet demand and bring the program in on budget for the fiscal year, which ended Thursday.

The rebate program ended the year at 123 percent of its goal, with 2,938 participants taking advantage of the program’s rebates, an increase of 467 over last year’s participation.

However, participation in the utility’s loan program dropped from 196 last year to 109 this year. Austin Energy’s goal for that program was 211. With residential properties, Austin Energy typically offers low- or no-interest loans to finance conservation measures such as Home Performance.

In order to increase customer participation, Austin Energy will be initiating a new three-month program, a “year-end special,” offering a package composed of both rebates and low- or no-interest loans. Federal stimulus money will be used to buy down the interest on the loans for residential properties.


Rabago told the commission that he believes the new loan/rebate package program will be a good first step in changing people’s perceptions of the value of loans versus rebates and improving the Home Performance loan numbers, which, he admitted, have “pretty much nowhere to go but up.”


“One of the big strategic ideas out here … is that loans can cost us less than upfront capacity-based rebates and enable our budget to go further,” Rabago said. “But what we have to do is figure out how to make those products attractive to people. Because we’re right on the cusp. A lot of people say, ‘Give me my cash now. I’m not sure how much (a loan) will save me …’ With improved understanding and confidence in the savings they get, we believe loans become more attractive.”

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