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New program aims to help rural Coloradans pay less on monthly energy bills

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Eric Galatas

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(Colorado News Connection) Coloradans living in rural parts of the state tend to pay a lot more for their monthly energy bills than metropolitan customers but a new Biden administration program aims to bring costs down by helping homeowners and businesses replace older, inefficient heating and cooling systems.

Philip Fracica, policy advocate for the Rural Power Coalition, said if the average Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association connected ratepayer agrees to participate, they should see significantly lower monthly bills.

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"You're going to be looking at a 20 percent energy savings, compared to what you are currently paying now," Fracica pointed out. "You will be getting a bill reduction immediately. And especially if you know you have a high utility bill, and your home is inefficient, you will get saving and benefits from enrolling in this program."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Energy Savings Program is investing $50 million in Tri-State's Electrify and Save repayment program. The money will be used as low-interest rate loans to pay for improvements up front. Customers will make small repayments in their monthly energy bills.

Fracica noted monthly bills should still be lower even with the repayments.

Homes and businesses can sign up for the program through their Tri-state distribution member co-op. Fracica added efficiency experts will be dispatched to conduct a comprehensive energy audit of your home or building to identify potential savings.

"For instance, looking at putting in a new HVAC system, putting in a new furnace, looking at insulation upgrades," Fracica outlined. "So really going to look top to bottom on where they can find energy savings and are going to have a customized plan."

Because the financing is backed by the federal government and tied to the service location, rather than the ratepayer, it will not affect credit scores or add debt for customers. Fracica acknowledged many people have called the program too good to be true but he believes it is an important opportunity.

"The co-op itself can benefit, as well as the members," Fracica emphasized. "It also can create jobs for local contractors in local communities to do the work as part of the program. So there's really multiple groups that can benefit."